In Carsten Seiffarth’s 2009 essay for the Goethe Institute, Sound Art was called a “New Art Form.” As in – it is an established artform but it only plays a fringe role on the outskirts of the art world, as visitors to galleries will testify.
One of the reasons this may be happening is that the very oeuvre of Sound Art is inextricably linked to the location it is presented at. For example, take a look/listen to the World Expo in Brussels, 1958, at which Varese debuted Poèm électronique.
The same goes for Plaqué by Peter Schubert & Andrea Usenbenz. These works are tied up with spatial as well as historic roots. There is the element of the snapshot of a time when you listen back to the recording of an installation – summoning the genii locus of a place & time & modus operandi long since vanished.
Plus, if you couple the fact that there are few art galleries equipped to deal solely with sound art … well, that is in part the ceremony of the modern day vinyl revival that has made vinyl hold out against CDs and Digital. People go to a gallery to look at an image; they create a ceremony out of it as opposed to looking at the image online. People create a ceremony out of listening to vinyl – and the same should be for all forms of audio, even birdsong. Is that lost with sound art on a home system? Not if you create a ceremony out of it.
A question that could be asked in the case of “Plaqué” by Usenbenz & Schubert: is it “just” an archival recording of a long gone performance? As with Varese’s Poème électronique, “Plaqué” was created for a specific event. Plaqué marked the 200th birthday of Daniel Straub, whose diligence in Geislingen shaped the small German town for decades to come. It was he who was involved in the construction of the railroad line and founded the famous company called WMF, which produces kitchenware and cutlery to this date.
Usenbenz and Schubert traced Straub’s history in the Geislingen of our present, walking around the modern versions of his old haunts. The collected field recordings were presented as a live performance. This served as a preliminary work and a basis for the work now published herein.
“Plaqué” is not just a recorded performance, it is an advanced work, a new composition containing additionally recorded material. It gently loosens its spacial and temporal roots without losing its contextual base. The result is strangely fascinating and universally relevant, slow in temperament – almost a churched requiem with the undertones of an organ. It is an independent piece of sound art, which deserves the same form of attention and appreciation as a painting or a sculpture. Even if it’s not a unique piece, entering one art collection, but an edition that will be enjoyed by 200 collectors.
“Plaqué” will be released on Klanggold on December 18th 2017.