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The Voice and Nothing More

Audio and visual art collide as Sam Belinfante, Neil Luck and collaborative artists create new score objects through performance and celebrate the power of voice.

Celebrating the voice as a work of art, artist Sam Belinfante and musician Neil Luck bring visual artists and musicians together to encourage dialogues across the two media. Their recent curatorial project The Voice and Nothing More, a week-long festival exploring the voice as both medium and subject matter, involved teaming up more than 50 visual artists with vocalists and composers under the guidance of Claudia Molitor to explore the voice outside language. Special guests such as Martin Creed, Simon Faithfull and Cornelia Parker worked alongside emerging artists such as Sarah Kate Wilson to create new "score objects" to be performed. Dazed Digital interviews Sam Belinfante to find out more about his latest curatorial project, the relationship between music and visual arts, and his plans for the future...

Dazed Digital: What led to your decision to combine music and visual art? What is your artistic background?
Sam Belinfante: I have a visual arts background but I’ve always been a musician, and I’ve been practising as a freelance Cellist and singer throughout my arts education. Later on, I started to think about combining the two worlds, and then I met Neil [Neil Luck], who I curated the show with [The Voice and Nothing More], he’s a composer and ever though he studied traditional music, he’s always been interested in the visual arts world, so it seemed like a natural pairing between the two of us.

DD: How did you decide on the composer/artists pairings for your recent show, The Voice and Nothing More?
SB: Basically, it was lead by the proposals, six to eight weeks before the show we put out a proposal and the basic premise was to work with the voice and nothing more, to create a video, film or installation, or whatever they wanted to serve as a starting point for a new performance work. Also, over the past three years we built up a body of musicians and composers that we really liked working with, and we also invited some special guests that we felt were specifically important for the voice. Then we basically started pairing them up based on the vocal capabilities of the performers and the exact needs of the proposed art work. We did not really see these pairings as truly collaborative; it was more about situating the artists and musicians together, the idea was that everything would come out in the dialogue between the artists and musicians. They propose a piece and then the piece develops based on the creative agents involved during the course of the week. The starting point might be an artist wanting to work with a certain musician or a musician with a certain artist. 

DD: Can you explain the types of collaborative works that were produced for the show?
SB: There was a small amount of film work, but it is primarily full of sculptural and drawn installations.The idea was to traverse the score through the space. There were sculptures as well, and stages for performances that were set up as scores for the musicians to follow. There were also a series of films where soundtracks were proposed or improvised. 

DD: What exactly is a new score-object?
SB: I am stealing the score from music history – the score is the essential object in the realisation of a musical work. Traditionally, the composer would have an idea in his or her head and they would set it to paper – this would kind of be set or frozen within the score and the realisation of that score would be repetition of the same work. Where I am coming from is an idea where the score is completely opened-up and can be made up out of performances, so that they can constantly be reinvented and reformulated, becoming far more organic. Nevertheless, it is still an important overlap between the visual and the audible, so it is a formal language that allows communication between various practitioners.

DD: Can you describe Martin Creed’s contribution?
SB: We were really lucky to have shown a sound work by Creed. Creed has been concerned with sound in much of his practice over the years but with Work 401, he really foregrounds the voice. The work involves the artist making sporadic raspberry sounds. It is a real investigation of the voice outside language, and typically, for Creed it is as absurdly humorous as it is beautifully poetic.

DD: I understand that Sarah Kate Wilson will be doing a live drawing, can you explain further, how does this work focus on the voice, and what role will the composer play?  
SB: She did a bit of drawing or painting the week before the show with musicians developing a vocabulary and then, when she came to the actual performance, she was able to paint and draw in a live situation, with the musicians performing to each of her gestures.

DD: Will you continue to explore the interrelationships in music and art in the future? If so, can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?
SB: This project has really whetted my appetite for curatorial projects. I want to continue working with a wide range of practitioners in order to give artists and musicians of the highest calibre the opportunity to collaborate with each other. Projects in the pipeline include a series of performances and happenings with Hayward Touring (2010-11), a possible large-scale voice project with London 2012 and a set of public interventions in Jubilee Square, Brighton this summer.