Nature is Perverse text

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Exhibiting Sound

Ever since the Greeks defined beauty and harmony, our culture has generally considered noise as something detrimental, even demoniacal. How many studies have been made of the effects of sound on plants, animals and human beings, studies which always seem to show that if the sound is noise the plants wither, the children become asocial. Ear-splitting heavy metal is supposed to encourage suicide and satanist tendencies. Classical music on the other hand, especially Mozart, is found to make plants greener, cows give more milk, and children more intelligent.
But why should the demons prefer noise. Surely the value scale demarcated by cacophony and euphony is but a reflection of what Western culture has chosen to identify as Music and Art, from the seven spheres and the scales of Pythagoras to the significance of geometry in art and smooth sine waves of scientific research. It is presumably therefore that noise has become such a key component of musics which seek to free themselves from or to challenge or to consciously expose the high-flown claims of Western culture to purity and harmony. This tendency was well in evidence among the dadaists and futurists from the beginning of the century. It is also perhaps symptomatic that one of the most extreme forms of music of our time, albeit strongly influenced by Western avant garde art, comes from the Far East, from Japan, with a music tradition quite unlike that of the West. The Japanese artist Merzbow, already a legend within "noise-music", not only refers to dada and surrealism when he defines noise as "music of the unconscious", he has chosen his pseuodnym from a work by the dadaist Kurt Schwitter. Like Schwitter, who made collages of refuse he found in the street, Merzbow makes music from all kinds of noise from his surroundings. And just like Schwitter he sees an erotic/subconscious significance in the refuse thrown out or abandoned by Culture.

The ambiguous title "Nature Is Perverse" is of course intended to suggest the quandary of our culture in addressing the concept of noise. The values which it can be taken to suggest can also refer to the ranking of culture as ´highbrow´ or ´lowbrow´, as belonging to this or that genre or compartment, and the consequent difficulty which many contemporary artists encounter in trying to fit their intermedia works into the accepted framework of artistic definitions. The "perverted" zone of noise-music has become a kind of sanctuary for many working in the no-man´s-land between different genres and styles. True, the physical auditive experience is central to their work, but few noise-musicians have a "straight" musical background. Often they have come to working with sound from other areas, like visual art and installations, performance art or video. And often they have appeared outside the mainstream cultural institutions, at small clubs and societies, and on CD´s put out by artist-run record labels.

Despite its rather marginal position there is today a growing interest in noise music; it is hardly a coincidence that a recent number of the British art periodical Frieze was devoted to this outré art form. One explanation is certainly that technological developments have made it possible for many contemporary artists to include and manipulate sound in their installations or interactive works in ways which were quite infeasible earlier, and in doing so these artists have often, albeit unconsciously, moved in the direction of noise music. It is this sort of tendency which lies behind the broad scope covered by "Nature Is Perverse", ranging from noise, techno and ambient music to performance, digital art and sound installations.

Some of the artists will literally be investigating sound and its influence on the body. Others will be inquiring into the relationship of technology to the body and to nature from a more philosophical standpoint. A common denominator for all the works in this event is their involvement with impure amalgams, presence, interaction with the audience and the social situation.

Fylkingen has both as a venue and an artist-run society a long tradition of projects of this kind. Quite a number of the artists involved in this event have already appeared individaully at Fylkingen over the years. It is therefore particularly satisfying to have them now assembled under the roof of the Museum of Modern Art.

Thomas Liljenberg
Thomas Bokstad
Dinka Pignon
Mikael Stavöstrand