Sounding The Body Electric

26 June - 25 August 2013

Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984

Curated by: David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk 

The connections between the visual arts and experimental music were closer in the 1960s and 1970s than perhaps any time before or since. Sound and image combined in artists' films, 'happenings' and sounding installations. Experimental forms of notation were also created to stimulate uninhibited musical expression. 

Eastern European artists and composers were at the forefront of these new experiments with sound and yet their achievements have never been recorded until now. Sounding the Body Electric. Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984, an exhibition at Calvert 22 in London, organized in conjunction with the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, fills in a missing chapter in the history of Sound Art. 

The first experiments in sound were produced during the euphoric period known as ‘the Thaw’ after Stalin’s death. Composers and artists in Eastern Europe were given new opportunities to experiment. New recording studios equipped with magnetic tape recorders and later, synthesisers were established, first in Warsaw in 1957 and then throughout Eastern Europe. New and often challenging forms of music by pioneers of electronic music like Krzysztof Penderecki were produced in these laboratories of sound.

The early happenings and actions of the 1960s were associated with intellectual freedom and reform. The exhilaration of experimentation declined during the decade and in the 1970s new critical forms of art emerged which associated sound with surveillance and censorship. 

More than 30 works will be on display at Calvert 22. Key works include:

‘Destroyed records’, artworks and recordings made by splitting and combining recordings on vinyl by Fluxus artist Milan Knižák in the mid-1960s;

‘Acoustic drawings’ by Czech artist Milan Grygar in the early 1970 in which the process of creating the image was both a performance and the creation of a new piece of music. Grygar’s work has never been exhibited in London before;

‘Just Transistor Radios’, a critical intervention into broadcast radio in the People’s Republic of Poland in 1970 by artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and composer Szábolcs Esztényi. This work has been recreated for the exhibition;

‘Music Within and Outside’, an exercise in self-surveillance by Moscow conceptualists Collective Actions, using photography and reel-to-reel recording equipment in 1984;
graphic scores in the form of contemporary collage by phonopoetic artist Katalin Ladik made in Yugoslavia in the 1970s; 

‘Music Code Passport’ by Sots-Artists Komar & Melamid, a 1976 composition based on the internal passport required by all citizens in the Soviet Union;

‘Kalah’, a film and installation made in 1980 by Hungarian artist Dorá Maurer with avant-garde composer, Zoltán Jeney, using chance operations.

Sounding the Body Electric has been curated by David Crowley, an art historian based at the Royal College of Art and an expert on Eastern European art in C20th, and Daniel Muzyczuk, a curator at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland, with a specialist interest in contemporary sound art.  Muzyczuk is the curator of the Polish pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year.   

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Notes to Editors

A double-CD of recordings of works in the show will also be issued by Bólt Records.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 222 page book by Crowley and Muzyczuk. It also contains previously untranslated artists’ documents and statements. 

Curator and Artist biographies, further information, events programme and images are available on request.

About Calvert 22 Foundation 

CALVERT 22 is the UK’s only not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art and culture from Russia, CIS countries and Eastern Europe and presents a dynamic programme of exhibitions, talks and cross-disciplinary events from both emergent and established artists. Founded in May 2009 by Nonna Materkova, a Russian-born, London based economist, Calvert 22’s mission is to create a unique platform, through imaginative and active presentations, for the very best in current art and culture from the former ‘Eastern Bloc’, whilst being a catalyst for new possibilities of cross-cultural understanding and exchange. The strategic partner of Calvert 22 is VTB Capital.

Strategic Partner

VTB Capital, the Investment Business of VTB Group, is one of the three strategic business arms of VTB Group, along with the corporate and retail businesses. Since its foundation in 2008, VTB Capital has taken part in more than 400 ECM and DCM deals, which were instrumental in attracting more than USD 162.7bn worth of investments to Russia and CIS.    

VTB Capital offers a full range of investment banking products and services to Russian and international clients, focusing on arranging operations in the debt, equity, global commodities markets, developing investment and asset management, advising clients on M&A and ECM deals in Russia and abroad.

In March 2011 the London arts foundation Calvert 22 and the Russian investment company VTB Capital have announced a strategic partnership designed to showcase cutting-edge Russian artists in London and widen the exposure of the British public to creative Russian culture as part of a wider artistic programme that presents culture from Russia, Central and Eastern Europe.

VTB Capital is positioned as Calvert 22’s primary strategic partner, providing support for the artistic vision and core activities of the organization. Calvert 22 and VTB Capital are committed to promoting global co-operation through cultural understanding.  

VTB Capital is the recognized leader in Russian investment banking, and one of the company's key objectives is to promote Russian culture throughout the world. VTB Capital’s partnership with Calvert 22 provides a unique opportunity to engage an open dialogue with the British audience. 

Working together, VTB Capital and Calvert 22 are committed to promoting and developing new possibilities for global cooperation through cross-cultural understanding and exchange by implementing an ambitious artistic programme that is part of the company’s approach to attracting investments into Russia.

Education Partner

Calvert 22 Foundation Education Partner Smolny College, the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St Petersburg State University, led by Professor Alexei Kudrin, former Minister for Finance of Russia.

Media Partner

The Wire is the world’s leading independent music magazine covering a wide spectrum of underground and experimental sound and music. Established in 1982 and now based in East London, in addition to publishing a monthly print magazine, The Wire is active across a variety of online platforms, hosts two radio shows, and programmes a number of salon and symposium type events both in the UK and internationally.