Exhibiting Polyphony

Exhibiting Polyphony

A seminar in parallel with the conceptual and theoretical formulation of the exhibition “Polyphon(e). Polyphonies visuelles et sonores / Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton”

Between 2021 and 2023 the DFK Paris will continue its investigation into artistic relations by hosting a seminar on the subject of polyphony. Asking the question how polyphony can be exhibited, it will run in parallel with the conceptual and theoretical formulation of the exhibition “Polyphon(e). Polyphonies visuelles et sonores / Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton” to be organised by Anne Zeitz in 2021 in Gera (in collaboration with Claudia Tittel) and in 2022 in its partnership town Saint-Denis (in collaboration with Anne Yanover), with the participation of students from the universities Rennes 2 and Paris 8 in France and the Universität der Künste in Berlin (for more information on the exhibition and its partners, see below).

Referred to in the field of art, in particular in sonic practices, polyphony is associated with, on the one hand, a process of musical writing and, on the other, the notion developed by Mikhail Bakhtin in The Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics to characterize the Russian author’s novels, before it enriches more broadly the exploitation by artistic practices of “the multiplicity of independent consciousness’s, diverse ideologies and different languages(Claire Stolz). In this aspiration to embrace diversity, polyphony not only calls on hearing, it rouses all the senses. The coming together of points of view and voices stimulates the emergence of harmony and unison as much as cacophony or conflict; understanding these aspects through an exhibition questions how listening to individual and collective expressions should be related.

Nurturing reflection on artistic relations from the standpoint of polyphony means placing – at the heart of observation – not only artistic practices as a research subject, but also a multi-layered notion within which links are woven of different kinds and qualities: between the historian and the perspectives from which he tackles his subject, between the author and his heroes, between the artist and his works, between the materials with which the works are created, or between the artist, his works, the place of exhibition and the viewer. How can this multiplicity of visions of the world be rendered? Can we particularise the constituent elements without losing their composite nature?

Starting from artistic approaches that explore polyphony and from attention to the legacies of Bakhtinian theory, in addition to examining the various facets of this notion, the seminar will explore the meeting points between musical process and literary theory. It will also analyse the sound metaphors used by Bakhtin while also considering their limits for artistic thought.

Seminar sessions on different days will explore what constitutes polyphony and its effects, whether from the standpoints of ethnomusicology, sound practices or literary studies. No particular approach will be favoured, but acknowledgement will be made of their variety and the consideration given to the effects of the methodological choices on the sense given to analyses of the term. Based on meetings between artists whose works question polyphony and researchers from different academic backgrounds whose work investigates the notion, the seminar will encourage reflection on ways to understand polyphony within the framework of an exhibition and will include both conceptual and material issues.


Max Neuhaus, Audium, 1980, detail, pencil on paper, 95,5 x 120 cm (© Estate Max Neuhaus)Max Neuhaus, Audium, 1980, detail, pencil on paper, 95,5 x 120 cm (© Estate Max Neuhaus)


Program of the seminar:

The sessions are broadcasted live and archived by ∏-node, experimental platform for the development of an hybrid web/FM/DAB+ radio format (part I and part II).

19 March 2021, 2-5 pm
Exhibiting Polyphony: An Introduction
with Mathilde Arnoux, Séverine Cauchy, Matthieu Saladin, Jan Thoben, Anne Zeitz and students from Rennes 2, Paris 8 and UdK Berlin

9 April 2021, 2-5 pm
Deciphering Polyphony
with Simha Arom and Vincent Meessen

20 May 2021, 2-4 pm
Modalities of Polyphony
with Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Caryl Emerson’s ideas

18 June 2021, 2-5 pm
Resonance and Polyphony
with Félicia Atkinson and David Toop

29 November 2021, 10-12 am
La musique n’est pas…
with Ari Benjamin Meyers

20 May 2022, 11am-1pm (exceptionally in Saint-Denis)
The voice as a call, a presence, an invocation
with Ari Benjamin Meyers

25 May 2022, 2-5 pm
The singularity of the voice
with Lerato Shadi and Adriana Cavarero

22 September 2022, 2-5pm postponed to an as yet undetermined date
Voices to interweave reformed links
with Euridice Kala and Ana Maria Ochoa Gautier

7 November 2022, 2-5 pm
The voice and the law
with Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Mladen Dolar

30 May 2023, 2-5 pm
with Ari Benjamin Meyers and Peter Szendy

All sessions take place at the DFK Paris.
To take part in the sessions and access the reader, please send a message to marnoux@dfk-paris.org or anne.zeitz@univ-rennes2.fr.

The exhibition “Polyphon(e). Polyphonies visuelles et sonores / Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton”

The exhibition “Polyphon(e). Polyphonies visuelles et sonores / Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton” will be shown at the Kunstsammlung Gera and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Gera from July 2nd to September 19, 2021 and at the Musée d’art et d’histoire Paul Éluard in Saint-Denis from May 20 to November 7, 2022, with the participation of the following artists and musicians:

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Félicia Atkinson, Oliver Beer, Candice Breitz, Carlfriedrich Claus, Kazumichi Fujiwara, institute for incongruous translation (Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Ashkan Sepahvand), Rolf Julius, Christina Kubisch, Christian Marclay, Vincent Meessen, Francisco Meirino, Ari Benjamin Meyers, Rie Nakajima, Max Neuhaus, Olaf Nicolai, Ute Pleuger, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Matthieu Saladin, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Lerato Shadi, Dennis Tyfus, Jorinde Voigt, Euridice Zaituna Kala

“Polyphon(e)” brings together works by international artists that reflect the merging of multiple sounds and voices in convergent or divergent constellations. From different points of view and historical as well as geographical contexts — from the 1970s to today, from countries as Germany, France, Japan and South Africa — the artists question the effect and power of plural voices and sounds. The installations, performances, drawings and videos challenge perceptual modes as well as socio-cultural and political issues in relation to polyphony. The exhibition is based on the musical definition of the term but even more on its linguistic sense as conceived by Mikhail Bakhtin. Therefore, “Polyphon(e)” questions the ways that different, and sometimes contradictory codes and systems of expression and of representation can be articulated with each other. The works reveal the significations of the sonic congruence between the multiple and the organised, the individual and the collective, harmony and discordance in contemporary society. It also puts into light the different aspects of polyphony from the desire of unity to the representation of conflictual phenomena via sonic experiences.

The additional program of “Polyphon(e)” is organized in the framework of a cooperation between the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung and the Kunstsammlung Gera.

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Mathilde Arnoux

Dr. habil. Mathilde Arnoux

Forschungsleiterin / Verantwortlich für französischsprachige Publikationen (Schriftenreihen Passages und Passerelles)
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