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Archived exhibition

Bow Gamelan Ensemble: Great Noises That Fill The Air

Bow Gamelan Ensemble
Great Noises That Fill The Air
27 October 15 December 2018

Preview and Performance
Friday 26 October, 5.30 – 7.30pm

Scoring Noise, Symposium
Saturday 24 November, 2–6pm
Speakers: Sam Ainsley & David Harding, Anne Bean & Richard Wilson, Graham Fagen, Rob La Frenais and David Toop

I Want to Know What it Says, The Sea
Saturday 10 November, 2 – 3.30pm
A poetry workshop with no paper and no pens with JL Williams

A Noise Evening
Thursday 29 November, 5.30–8pm
Listening event of shared sound

A Sonic Meditation
Wednesday 5 December, 5.30–7pm
A visual score workshop with Ariki Porteous

Cooper Gallery is delighted to stage Great Noises that Fill the Air, the first retrospective of influential artist collective Bow Gamelan Ensemble (Anne Bean, Paul Burwell, Richard Wilson). Utilising found objects, invented instruments and everyday sound, Bow Gamelan Ensemble have, since 1983, inspired generations of artists with their radical collaborative and cross-disciplinary practice.

Embodying an urgently creative and discursive space resonating with improvisation, camaraderie, provocation and antagonism, Bow Gamelan Ensemble is driven by the uniquely subversive and collective sensibilities of Bean, Burwell and Wilson. Charged with their individual virtuosity in performance art, avant-garde music and kinetic sculpture, Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s sound installations and performances are immersed in an orchestra of instruments made from scrap metal, electric motors, river barges and domestic objects including glass sheets, light bulbs and fireworks. With this passionate and radical sojourn in the possibilities of sound and light, Great Noises that Fill the Air engineers a live interrogation of the dissonance between ‘noise’ and ‘meaningful utterance’ that astonishes the ears and ravishes the imagination with unearthly magic.

At the loud heart of Great Noises that Fill the Air is a radical take on archival display. Acting as a ‘symbolic score’ heralding new ways of perceiving and creating sound, this newly commissioned kinetic sound installation Bow Lines features sketches, photographs and ephemera from Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s archive placed on ‘music stands’ and bracketed by two giant “thunder sheets”. Underscored by the tumultuous din of their experimental collaborations this collaborative acoustic instrument is activated live by Anne Bean and Richard Wilson at the opening ceremony of the exhibition, filling Cooper Gallery with a vast spectrum of sound rippling on the cusp of meaning.

At the preview of Great Noises that Fill the Air, Anne Bean and Richard Wilson present a newly developed live performance, Nalemag 2, in their new incarnation as W0B. With support from students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, W0B conjures the unorthodox magic of Bow Gamelan Ensemble using their repertoire and scores of bangs, taps, thumps, rattles, echoes, whispers, blasts, booms, clangs, clashes, howls, peals, pops, roars, rolls, rumbles, slams, smashes, thuds, thumps, thunder, whams, hums, murmurs, purrs, shouts, grunts, hisses, hollers, hoots, claps, screams, screeches, shrieks, wails, whines, whistles, whoops, yammers, sniffs, sobs, squalls, whimpers, groans, laments and sighs.

Preview & Performance | Bow Gamelan Ensemble | Great Noises that Fill the Air

Slideshow: W0B perform Namelag 2 at Cooper Gallery on 26 October 2018, photography by Eoin Carey

Performance by W0B (Anne Bean & Richard Wilson) with Conor Gray, Calum Ingram, Julian Larrainzar, Jek McAllister, Stella Rooney and Saskia Singer on 26 October 2018 at Cooper Gallery. Filming and Editing by Schedule D Productions.

Underpinned by Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s ethos and practice, an Event Series transforms Great Noises that Fill the Air into an open ‘jamming studio’, where artists, musicians, poets and audiences share, debate and question strategies of collaboration and antagonism in culture, society and everyday life.

Acting as a coda to the project the symposium, Scoring Noise brings artists, thinkers, theorists and musicians together in a live act resonating with improvisation, camaraderie, provocation and antagonism. Foregrounding the score as an always provisional starting point, this ‘jamming’ symposium tunes into current social and critical discourse to delineate the politics at stake in the discordances and harmonies that divide and unite ‘noise’ and ‘collective voice’. Speakers include: Sam Ainsley & David Harding, Anne Bean & Richard Wilson (Bow Gamelan Ensemble), Graham Fagen, Rob La Frenais and David Toop.

Bow Gamelan Ensemble installation

Slideshow: Great Noises that Fill the Air installation at Cooper Gallery, photography by Eoin Carey

Read Morgan Quaintance's review of Great Noises that Fill the Air in Art Monthly. Art Monthly full

Bow Gamelan Ensemble Biography

Bow Gamelan Ensemble was founded in 1983 during a boat trip up Bow Creek by germinal performance artist Anne Bean, influential experimental sound artist Paul Burwell (1949 – 2007) and internationally renowned sculptor Richard Wilson. As friends, exploring riverscapes, their shared excitement of the countless possibilities within the intersections of visual dynamics and the production of unexpected sounds, often on vast scales, stimulated the ideas that became embedded in the group DNA.

The Ensemble’s name derives from the area of East London where the artist’s live and work and from the Indonesian Metallophone musical ensembles. Working with invented instruments, kinetic sculptures, lights and their sounds, the Bow Gamelan Ensemble devise spatially responsive sculptural situations to perform among. The unique sensibilities of the individual members, combined with their long experience in the areas of Performance Art, Experimental Music, Sculpture, Environments and Multi-media work make the collaboration unique in the history of British Art. The ‘instruments’ used in their performances are specially constructed, mostly from scrap metal, electric motors and glass, and produce a wide variety of sounds; from the deep, organ like sounds of the Pyrophones through a gamut of percussive timbres and dynamic ranges. Both the sound sources and the musical structures generated are unusual. This is partly due to the physical relationship between the ways instruments work, and how they have to be played.

Since their first experimental and cross-disciplinary performance involving a durational ‘sculptural situation’ in 1983 at the London Musicians Collective, Bow Gamelan Ensemble have shown works at festivals and in galleries nationally and internationally along with devising their own large-scale outdoor site-responsive events on rivers and waterways. Their works were shown at art galleries including: Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Modern Art Oxford; Ferens Gallery, Hull; Whitechapel, London; Orchard Gallery, Londonderry, Northern Ireland; Anchorage, AIR Gallery, New Jersey; Third Eye Centre, Glasgow and Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol. They have performed at festivals worldwide from Cervantino Festival, Mexico to Earth Celebrations, Japan and Creative Time Inc, The Anchorage, Brooklyn Bridge, New York.

Since Burwell’s passing (2007), Anne Bean, Richard Wilson and the Estate of Paul Burwell have worked with archivists to preserve and organise the group’s extensive archive. Bean and Wilson continue to collaborate and presented with projects for Matt’s Gallery, Liverpool Biennale, London Contemporary Music Festival, the most ambitious project, a large-scale durational project ‘TAPS: Improvisation with Paul Burwell, involved 100 contributors (2010).

Bean, Burwell and Wilson are influential artists in performance art, sound art and sculpture respectively. Bean was awarded Time Out Performance Award (1991), ICA/TOSHIBA Art & New Technology Award (1998) and the Tate Research/LADA Legacy: Thinker in Residence Awards (2008) and British Council Creative Collaborations, (2009), an on-going project working with women worldwide. Burwell was key to the founding of the seminal London Musicians Collective. He was one of the pioneers of free improvisation, fusing music, film, dance, poetry and performance art, choosing to collaborate with musicians and artists alike throughout his prolific practice. Wilson nominated for the Turner Prize (1988 and 1989), is one of Britain’s most renowned sculptors, celebrated for architectural interventions including the seminal installation ‘20:50’ described as ‘one of the masterpieces of the modern age’ and Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture commission 'Turning the Place Over'.

Bow Gamelan Ensemble

Slideshow: Bow Gamelan Ensemble performance documentation. Courtesy Bow Gamelan Ensemble.


Header Image credits:
1. Bow Gamelan Ensemble, 51° 29'.9'' North - 0°11' East, Rainham Barges, 1985. Courtesy ALTERIMAGE.
Bow Gamelan Ensemble, Damn Near Run Thing, 1988. Sounds Unusual Festival, South Bank, Jubilee Gardens, London, Courtesy Bow Gamelan Ensemble.
3. Bow Gamelan Ensemble, Damn Near Run Thing, 1988. Sounds Unusual Festival, South Bank, Jubilee Gardens, London, Courtesy Bow Gamelan Ensemble.


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