collection of M HKA, Antwerp (BE)
curated by Azad Asifovich
Images Mathilde Geldhof/ Alex Martinelli
Performance 'Augenmusik' was realised in the streets of Paris during the nation-wide ‘State of Emergency’ after the Parisian attacks of 2015, and without any institutional framework.
On the day of the summer solstice, twenty-four performers departed simultaneously from each of the twenty four ‘portes’ (gates) of Paris heading to the geographical center of the city, former central market square Les Halles.
The performers were carrying flashing blue police emergency lights, while police sirens contained in their back-packs emitted arhythmic siren alarms. They were progressively arriving to Les Halles one-by-one, putting down their lights and their back-packs on the ground and silently walking away. The dissonant signals of sirens were gradually becoming sonorous.
The sirens were orchestrating The Art of the Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach preliminary defragmented in 24 one-fifth intervals (a French siren сhord). The Art of the Fugue was playing on each separate siren since the start of the walking but only became audible when all twenty-four sirens joined in the same physical space.
The timing of the whole performance corresponded to the length of the musical score - Bach’s opus magnum of polyphonic writing, however unfinished and of unspecified instrumentation.
June 20, 2016 (summer solstice)
9 p.m. - 11:10 p.m. (twilight, 'heure bleu')
2 hours 10 min (= duration of Art of Fugue of Bach)
" [...] A strong signifier of state power and a signal of danger, in Ev’s performance the police emergency light is taken over by the performers, thereby shifting power metaphorically to the people. Entering through the strategic defence points of the city, the performers converged on the historical “Belly of Paris,” referring to the ancient Greek understanding of the market square as a space for practicing direct democracy. The polyphonic texture of Bach’s composition served as a metaphor for the political equality of voices, as opposed the contemporary understanding of democracy which reduces this polyphony to the single voice of the majority.
The performance triggered a strong reaction that revealed the sense of panic, hostility and aggression between the police and the city inhabitants. During the performance twenty two of twenty-four performers were stopped by the police, and two of the participants were suspected of terrorism and detained for questioning. At the end of the performance armed police special forces were waiting for the performers at Les Halles. They intended to disperse the “gathering” prohibited during the State of Emergency. They failed because the assembly of sirens replaced the forbidden assembly of people.
By subverting the local legal system, in ‘Augenmusik’ Ev tested the borders of state power, through an alternative kind of public assembly as well as the use of state instruments as the objects of empowerment for civil disobedience".
- Katia Krupennikova, 2018