A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot commission, The Curve, Barbican Centre

I went to The Curve gallery at the Barbican yesterday to see the much talked about current commission by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot where tiny zebra finches "play" electric guitars, basses and cymbals. The accompanying notes explained how Boursier-Mougenot is interested in creating works inspired by the natural rhythms of daily life to produce an auditory, participatory experience.

The queue to enter on Tuesday evening wasn't too bad, I had seen some very long queues over previous weekends.

The installation begins in darkness, with black and white images of hands playing guitars projected on to the walls of The Curve. As you move towards the far end of The Curve the light increases and you get a first glimpse of the birds and instruments.
The birds fly freely around the gallery space, occasionally land and hop along a guitar or rest upon an upturned cymbal to take some food or water. Sometimes they perch on a wall edge or the sand below the instruments.

As they bounce gently along the specially-tuned guitar strings the sounds are emitted from speakers around the gallery. Most of the guitar chords are fairly quiet and brief but occasionally a loud chord fires out, much to everyone's satisfaction.

I've never seen so many people simultaneously smiling at an art exhibition.

After I returned home I realised that the commission reminded me of a previous Curve installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, (which i posted about here), where the movement of the visitor influenced the sounds that were generated. Another brilliant installation at The Curve, then. It seems that the space is ideally suited to such interactive installations.

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