Sounding out the museum: tête-à-tête

Mikhail Karikis, Jean Martin, Conall Gleeson, Amy Cunningham

Research output: Non-textual outputPerformance


Sounding Out the Museum was devised to expand and build upon the curatorial intervention initiated by the recent installation and publication Tête-à-Tête by Peter Seddon at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Nimes. Four research staff from the Performance and Visual Art programme collaborated alongside ensemble Scratch the Surface to create new works which were performed in the Musée des Beaux Arts on June 21st, the national day of music celebration in France. Each of these works were experienced in context with the Tête-à-Tête exhibition and its central work, the famous painting of Oliver Cromwell looking upon the corpse of Charles I by Paul Delaroche. The Siege of Rhodes by Amy Cunningham derives it name from a 1656 production by English poet and playwright William D’Avenant who worked with several English composers including Henry Lawes and Matthew Locke. The production was cleverly described as ‘recitative musick’ allowing it to be performed at D’Avenant’s private residence in Rutland House, London at a time when Oliver Cromwell’s puritan government forbade theatre productions – yet did not specifically forbid music. The work is ostensibly the first performed English Opera. Cunningham’s film draws upon fragments of music by Lawes and Locke and reconstructs the setting of a typical 17th century painting in which musicians are presented in domestic settings. Invisible Targets by Conall Gleeson responds to the notions of civil conflict, democracy and monarchy which are raised throughout the exhibition. The work, written for loudspeaker and two snare drums, features a rhythmic fragment of the command to ‘retreat‘ which would have been played on a snare drum in the 17th century battlefield. The sounds of twentieth century modes of military communication such as morse code and radio are introduced but filtered through the rattle of snare drums placed directly infront of the loudspeakers. Toward the end of the work the muffled voice of Prince Harry is heard talking about his experiences in Afghanistan and in so doing a direct line between the political climate of today and that of Prince Harry’s distant ancester Charles 1st are drawn. Cromwell’s Sorrow by Jean Martin places in situ the music of 17th century English composer Henry Purcell and an imagined soundscape of battlecries and social unrest that pervaded the streets of London during the period of the English civil war. The site specific performance by Mikhail Karikis, Between Two Mouths: A Guided Tour challenges the representation of war and the narrative formalisation of history. In this performance of vocal utterances and disruptions, Karikis takes the role of a resurrected soldier who haunts the Musée des Beaux Arts de Nîmes and becomes an exhibition guide who gives an explosive ‘tour’ that speaks from the limits of articulation, language, representation and self-conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventWorld Music Day - Fête de la Musique - Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nimes, France
Duration: 1 Jan 2008 → …


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