The experience of hearing voices, of having one's consciousness invaded by someone else's memories and reflections, is at once strangely marvellous and frightening. This is the twilight zone of aural hallucination scripted, recorded and engineered by the Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. One of America's leading photographers, Philip-Lorca di Corcia combines a documentary tradition with the fictional worlds of cinema and advertising to create a powerful link between reality, fantasy and desire. A Storybook Life is presented through over 70 works made over 20 years and edited and sequenced to suggest a network of interconnected lives and stories.
Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller:
The experience of hearing voices, of having one's consciousness invaded by someone else's memories and reflections, is at once strangely marvellous and frightening. This is the twilight zone of aural hallucination scripted, recorded and engineered by the Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Their sound works reference musical, literary and cinematic genres that encompass medieval plainsong, pulp fiction, stream of consciousness novels, historical archives and film noir to transform a walk down the road into an existential thriller.
Renowned for their audio walking guides, the artists also use sound and image to create sculpture and installation. In the Whitechapel's Lower Gallery Forty Part Motet (2001) transforms the 16th century music of Thomas Tallis into a virtual architecture of pure sound. Spem in Alium, a choral work written for forty voices, has a soaring composition structured in overlapping layers. The spatialisation of this complex musical structure transports the listener into a transcendent realm. At the same time it is possible to experience the voice of each performer. Unlike the concert hall,audiences may wander among groups of singers who are evoked as an absent presence, a ghost choir.
The Berlin Files (2003) features film sequences that echo the disjointed space and time of dreams - a photo of a woman, a frozen landscape or a run-down night club. The voiceover hints at narratives of search, danger and loss echoed in the soundtrack. Images are used to trigger emotions while three-dimensional sound seeps beyond the film to merge celluloid reality with our own.
The final work in the exhibition involves a journey outside the Whitechapel. The Missing Voice (Case Study B) (1999) is one of a series of audio walks scripted by Cardiff in response to a particular location. These site-specific sound works take the listener on a physical and psychological journey. They combine unexpected new perspectives on everyday surroundings with disturbing flashbacks in a process which mirrors consciousness itself. Leave the Gallery and enter the peeling splendour of the Whitechapel Library. The story ends forty minutes later at Liverpool Street Station having immersed the walker in the 18th century streets and histories of London's East End, and in the memories and paranoias of a complete stranger.
The Missing Voice is available on Tuesdays and from Thursday until Saturday.
Philip-Lorca di Corcia:
A Storybook Life
One of America's leading photographers, Philip-Lorca di Corcia combines a documentary tradition with the fictional worlds of cinema and advertising to create a powerful link between reality, fantasy and desire. Alternating between the informality of the snapshot and the iconic quality of a staged composition, his play between real and artificial lighting, his eye for symbolic detail and his saturated colours give di Corcia's street scenes and domestic interiors a psychological and emotional intensity.
Di Corcia's works possess a reflective quality that goes against the grain of an image culture of instant consumption. Though immediately arresting, the real meaning of his images unfolds in time. The inner lives of his protagonists are intimated through gesture, glimpsed through doors left ajar or captured in one unguarded moment on a sidewalk. DiCorcia weaves these random moments into a complex narrative.
His quiet dramas find new expression in two series premiered in this exhibition. In the Upper Galleries, Two Hours comprises images photographed from one position in the same street in Havana, Cuba, over a two hour period. The city becomes a backdrop to the ebb and flow of humanity. Artificial lighting, triggered by the artist and hidden from view, invests the images with a sense of the dramatic that belies their spontaneity.
A Storybook Life is presented through over 70 works made over 20 years and edited and sequenced to suggest a network of interconnected lives and stories. The same protagonists re-appear at different stages of their lives. They rarely look at us or at each other - instead, they are absorbed in their own worlds of reflection.
Domestic interiors and urban and rural landscapes provide a resonant backdrop, cinematically charged with a sense of threat or longing. A white picket-fenced house is perched incongruously in a barren landscape. A lush garden appears in a jungle of concrete and steel. A jumble of unopened Christmas presents languish beneath a heavily decorated tree. Moving between urban and rural, private and public, moments of connection and of intense isolation, A Storybook Life offers an epic view of everyday existence.
This exhibition will tour to Centre National de la Photographie, Paris; Folkwang Museum, Essen and Centro de Arte Salamanc.
Image: PHILIP-LORCA DI CORCIA, A Storybook Life, DeBruce, 1999
Whitechapel Art Gallery
80-82 Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX
Tuesday - Sunday 11am - 6pm, Closed Mondays.
Thursday 11am - 9pm.