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 [[ March 6 - May 19, 2002 ]]
SOUND IN CONTEXT

 Angela Plohman

The new Musiques en Scène Biennale in Lyon, France, elaborates the definition and place of sound in contemporary art and puts an array of diverse art forms in context with sound and music practices. The historical context of this event is also of primary importance. The willingness by organizers to bring the past and the present of sound together in a biennial format singles out this event from the hosts of others biennales that take place from Venice to São Paolo.

Musiques en Scène began in 1982 as a series of evenings with programs dedicated to music and the performing arts. Since that time, each year's events focused on musical creation, but in a wider context of contemporary art, showcasing related expressions in dance, theatre, new media and visual art. The organizers of the yearly series eventually decided that the content would be better articulated in the form of a festival, which was held for the first time in 1992. Grame subsequently collaborated with the Contemporary Art Museum in Lyon in 1998, and in 2000 a decision was made to make Musiques en Scène a biennale. This year's Musiques en Scène has two main sections: exhibitions and events. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon will host three major exhibitions that better contextualize contemporary sound and musical creation. From March 6 to May 18, the museum will feature a solo exhibition of the work of Laurie Anderson; a selection of sound-based creations from New York City, curated by Stephen Vitiello; and a show dedicated to the work of Sarkis.

In the case of Laurie Anderson, a pioneer in the field, active since the 1970s, a selection of previous works will be shown in addition to the world premiere of a new piece commissioned for the Biennale entitled 'Ocean'. In 'New York, New Sound, New Spaces', Stephen Vitiello, renowned musician, composer and artist, brings together a diverse range of artworks that convey the growing sound and music scene in New York. The exhibition presents video, sound and new media installations by artists including David Abir, Molly Davies, Susan Philipsz, and Jody Elff, among others.

Notably, Sarkis presents a unique exhibition in three parts titled 'Le monde est illisible, mon coeur si'. From February 2 to March 2, the first part presented a selection of works by the artist from the '80s and '90s that deal with the theme of 'burning'; works that have never before been shown together. In part two, from March 6 to April 7, Sarkis covers the previous works with ancient Turkish carpets and injects a recording of 'Crippled Symmetry' by Morton Feldman into the space through four loudspeakers. As explained by Sarkis, in a rather poetic description of the event, the gallery becomes both an exhibition space and a concert space, as the visual is obscured and the gallery becomes a listening place. Every 90 minutes, visitors are invited to enter the space without shoes, sit on the carpets and listen. From April 17 to May 18, the space will be empty, except for 14 neon lamps that were installed at the very beginning of the exhibition. A mechanical wind generator will constantly blow pages of daily newspapers around the room. Three days a week, Sarkis will use the centre of the space as a forum for dialogue, where he will engage in conversation with young artists and the public, inviting speakers to ponder current affairs.

The second aspect of the Biennale consists of live events. For James Giroudon, artistic director of Grame, "the first Musiques en Scène Biennale sends a strong message, illustrating the growing presence of musical creation in contemporary art". This growth can be seen in the wide range of performances and featured events during the Biennale, featuring circus, dance, and new media, among other art forms. This edition of Musiques en Scène also explores the impact of globalization and hybridization on artistic creation, and illustrates these varying influences in diverse ways throughout the festival. The Biennale will feature portraits of composers such as Francois-Bernard Mâche, Thierry Pécou, and Younghi Pagh-Paan, and will present recent works by Paolo Perezzani, Chinese composers Zhu Shi-Rui, Xu Yi and Leilei Tian, and a new sound installation by Woudi-Tat consisting of over six hundred suitcases transformed into audio objects. The '2002 Rencontres Musicales Pluridisciplinaire', also organized by Grame, will address the issue of hybridization and musical identities in a theoretical context, bringing artists, ethnologists, musicologists and theorists together during two days of meetings.

In its attempt to bring music and sound practices to a larger public and to remove the conceptual boundaries cordoning off various artforms, Musiques en Scène demonstrates a willingness to communicate, to go beyond categorization. Organizers emphasize that Musiques en Scène "illustrates the conviction that the mix of musical genres and aesthetics is directly linked to the growth and mix of audiences." The mission propagated by the Biennale is the simple "desire to provoke the clash of different types of music by cultivating an unmoderated taste for the variety of forms, the pleasure of listening and performance."

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