By recalling our attention towards what has been overlooked, Oliver Beer’s works build awareness of the vibration and the sonic agency that every body contains within them. Beer (England, 1985) examines the acoustic interstices of matter in the world through sculptures, installations, videos, and immersive live performances. From the corners of the Sydney Opera House in Composition for Tuning an Architectural Space (2012/2018), the musical scores drawn by his 87-year-old grandmother (Oma, 2020) or childhood songs (Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I & II) he allows for us to hear the distinctiveness of places. If we place sound and listening at the center of how we think of subjectivity alongside space and action, we arrive at relational understandings that are distinct and dynamic.
Such affects can be found in Beer’s work Vessel Orchestra (2019). In it, thirty-two objects shaped in the form of vessels from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art collection were selected, amplified and connected by Beer to a keyboard which was used to translate the hollow space inside the objects into notes from the Western scale. By tuning inside the space of things, Beer invites us to perceive the importance of space as equal to the voices and instruments which participate in a performance or a music piece. Working with the architecture of sound and the acoustic aspect of objects, Beer expands the phenomenology of matter while placing unheard human and beyond-human voices into circulation.
In his recent paintings, he delves further into the correspondence between an image and a sound by following the gesture of applying loose pigment on the surface of a canvas, and playing music composed by him underneath it. Unveiling harmony and materials in those places where the human eye cannot reach is another key process which enhances a vibrant understanding of the world around us.
Interweaving artifacts, paintings, sound and architectural space, Beer’s practice reflects upon collective memory and the potentiality that music has of being at times inclusive and exclusive. The embodiment of cultural critique takes place by showcasing the inner workings of museum collections or the social exclusion that music dissemination entangles. His practice offers answers to the question how to compose a plural and networked I?, which implies the possibility of understanding the world as a shared reality.
Banner: Oliver Beer, Household Gods (Grandmother), 2019
Photo: Charles Duprat
© Oliver Beer
This Contribution was released with the support of Rudolf Augstein Stiftung, Bundesverband Soziokultur, Neustarthilfe, Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.