MUNICH.- Jennifer Allora (b. 1974 in Philadelphia) and Guillermo Calzadilla (b. 1971 in Havana, Cuba) have worked together since 1995. In 2005 they were represented at the Venice Biennale with their work, "Hope Hippo", in which a person sat reading a newspaper on top of a hippopotamus made of mud taken from the Canal Grande. Every time this seemingly relaxed newspaper reader learned of a new injustice, he or she blew a whistle, thus becoming a "whistleblower", who literally squealed on the perpetrator. The combination of sculptural elements and performances with sounds or music are characteristic for Allora & Calzadillas recent work. Their new piece, created especially for the Haus der Kunst, has not only a political, but also a militarily charged emphasis.
"Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano" is a sculpture-like object that only exists in the context of performances. The famous final chorus in the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethovens 9th Symphony is one of the best known pieces of western classical music and is performed worldwide. Beethovens musical transformation of universal fraternisation, "an icon of humanist platitudes" (Allora & Calzadilla), was voted the European Unions official hymn in 1985. The piece was also held in high respect by the Nazis; in 1942 it was played for Hitlers birthday. Allora & Calzadillas interest in the music is directed at its internal contradictions and at its instrumentalisation for social, political and cultural purposes, as well as the use and abuse of music in general. For this reason the artists have chosen to present their work in the Haus der Kunsts Middle Hall, where Hitler held his speeches on art and cultural politics.
The last movement of Beethovens 9th Symphony intrigues the artists because of its Middle Eastern elements; in the middle segment, the melody of a "Marcia Alla Turca" bursts forth in a persistent rhythmical cadence that sounds like the marching beat of soldiers: left... left... left, right, left. The lively beat and the unusual instrumentation (bass drums, triangle, cymbals) in the "Turkish style" was popular with composers, who found inspiration in the marching janissary military band of the Ottoman Empire that went to war against European armies. "Turkish" music was so popular at the turn of the 19th century that piano manufacturers made pianos with a "Turkish stop", also known as a military or janissary stop. The musician would step on a pedal that then rang a bell and/or caused a padded hammer to hit the sound box, imitating a bass drum.
Allora & Calzadillas work "Stop, Repair, Prepare" engages with the musical tradition of composing for a prepared piano. In order to prepare a piano, different objects are usually fixed to the strings or hammers and/or the dampers so that the sound is altered. For Allora & Calzadillas sculptural version of a prepared piano, a hole was cut into the middle of a grand piano to make room for the pianist who plays the instrument from within. Moving the grand piano through the Middle Hall, he or she plays variations on Ode to Joy. Literally mobilising this famous melody, the performance sets into motion a sonic journey from modernitys beginning towards an uncertain horizon, where the emblem of European brotherhood resides; a brotherhood to which, strangely enough, Turkeys status within this universal embrace remains uncertain.
Slavoj Zizek recently pointed out the current political implications: "The stanza of Friedrich Schillers poem that is set to the music in Ode to Joy, coming on the heels of a chorus that invites the worlds millions to be embraced, ominously ends: But he who cannot rejoice, let him steal weeping away. / Und wers nie gekonnt, der stehle weinend sich aus diesem Bund./ So, should Turkey be allowed into the Union or should it be let to steal itself weeping out of the union /Bund/? Can Europe survive the Turkish march?" (January 3, 2008 in Die ZEIT)
In addition to the show at the Haus der Kunst, the Kunstverein München is presenting the works "Clamor," "Sediments Sentiments (Figures of Speech)" and "Wake Up" also with continuous performances from June 13 to July 13, 2008; these works have never been presented together in an exhibition. This artist duos first appearance in Germany is thus made up of a quartet of works and comes closest to realising their wish for a performative presentation.
Allora & Calzadilla are presently DAAD scholarship holders in Berlin. In addition to their earlier participation in group shows, such as "Common Wealth" (Tate Modern, 2003) and the Istanbul Biennal 2007, they had solo shows at the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Kunsthalle Zürich and the San Francisco Art Institute in the last year.
The pianist Andrea Giehl, born 1981, completed her "Bachelor of Music(hon)" at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in 2007. Already at the age of 16 she received the cultural development grant from her home town in Landsberg in 1997, and, later in 2003, she received the cultural development grant from the county Landsberg am Lech.