TRAFO Centre for Contemporary Art is pleased to present the Forty Part Motet by Canadian artist Janet Cardiff (b. 1957, Canada) for the first time in Poland.
The work, consisting of 40 speakers placed in TRAFO’s spacious main hall, is a contemporary reworking of the medieval composition “Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui” (Eng. “I have never put my hope in any other”) by the English composer Thomas Tallis (1556/1573). Forty separately recorded voices are played back through forty speakers placed in an oval in the space. The speakers are configured in 8 separate choirs each consisting of 5 voices (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone and Bass).
Originally comisisoned by the National Gallery of Canada and part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the presentation is generously supported by the Canadian Embassy to Poland.
Cardiff states, “While listening to a concert you are normally seated in front of the choir, in traditional audience position. With this piece I want the audience to be able to experience a piece of music from the viewpoint of the singers. Every performer hears a unique mix of the piece of music. Enabling the audience to move throughout the space allows them to be intimately connected with the voices. It also reveals the piece of music as a changing construct. As well I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”
Thomas Tallis was the most influential English composer of his generation and is one of the most popular renaissance composers of today. He served as an organist to four English monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queens Mary and Elizabeth – as a gentleman of the Chapel Royal. One of his greatest works was this composition for forty parts – eight choirs of five voices. There is some debate as to whether the composition was authored in 1573 in celebration of Queen Elizabeth I’s or in 1556 to honour Queen Mary’s 40th birthday.
“I placed the speakers around the room in an oval so that the listener would be able to really feel the sculptural construction of the piece by Tallis. You can hear the sound move from one choir to another, jumping back and forth, echoing each other and then experience the overwhelming feeling as the sound waves hit you when all of the singers are singing.” [Janet Cardiff]
Based in rural British Columbia, Janet’s work has included media such as film, video and photography. She participated in Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1997, exhibiting in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, 1999. She also represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2001 in collaboration with George Bures Miller. Major surveys of Cardiff and Miller’s works have toured to PS1 in New York, The Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal, The Astrop Fearnley Museum, Oslo, the Castello Rivoli in Turin, MACBA in Barcelona, Institut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the ARoS Kunstmuseum in Arhus, Denmark. She is currently represented by Luhring Augustine Gallery in NYC and Gallery Koyanagi in Tokyo.
The exhibition was made possible thanks to financial support from the Embassy of Canada to Poland and TRSZ company.