OK | LABOR: Bill Fontana - Werkschau

Press Release Date:
5. September 2014

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  • Maria Falkinger
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OK | Labor Bill Fontana
Akustische Visionen / Acoustic Visions

4. September – 19. October 2014

press information from: 05.09.2014
date: 04.09.2014 - 19.09.2014

Bill Fontana, one of the most renowned audio artists in the world, has developed a new work for Linz parallel to the Ars Electronica Festival.

Fontana has been using sound as a sculptural medium since the late 60s. Since then he has created over fifty sound sculptures and twenty – partly intercontinental – radio sculptures, with which he has attracted major international attention. In 2009 he was honored with the Golden Nica of the Prix Ars Electronica for Digital Music and Sound Art. The OK presents his first solo retrospective exhibition in the German-speaking region.
His new production centers around the steel works of the voestalpine AG in Linz. Visitors to HÖHENRAUSCH are taken on an acoustic journey by means of a live transmission of sound and image. A show of Fontana’s work extending from the OK up to the rooftop landscape of HÖHENRAUSCH also shows earlier projects.

Linear Visions, Linz, 2014 NEW PRODUCTION
Live four-channel sound sculpture with live video
Commissioned by: OK Offenes Kulturhaus
With the kind support: voestalpine AG in Linz

Bill Fontana transforms the hot rolling mill in the voestalpine steelworks and transfers the vibrations in the area into an acoustic and visual work. The voestalpine steel-processing plant is used as an instrument. As with earlier works, Fontana first makes a transmission that subsequently becomes a contemporary document. With four hidden microphones and a high-definition mini-camera, these sounds and images are transmitted live to the OK Center for Contemporary Art.
In this media work, a video camera gazes at the linear movements of sheets of molten hot steel rolling through a section of the voestalpine steel plant. The sounds come from four accelerometers mounted on the mechanical conveyer system, while the view changes from the glistening roller to hot clouds of steam.

Landscape Soundings/ Klanglandschaften, Vienna, 1990
Ö1 Kunstradio - Radiokunst

For Landscape Soundings, a bugging and surveillance system consisting of 16 microphones was set up in the Stopfenreuther Au, a part of the Danube marshes near Hainburg, Austria. The sounds they recorded were made by birds, frogs, insects, the water, airplanes, bells and people who happened to stroll by. Two weeks long, 24/7, this surveillance system registered all acoustic signals and data in its range. The microphones were hooked up to 16 public utility cables that led to a radio link set up by the ORF – Austrian Broadcasting Company. This made it possible to feed the 16 audio signals to the ORF’s Kahlenberg transmitter that, in turn, broadcast them to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in downtown Vienna. The audio channels were actually two video channels divided into smaller sub-channels. Inside the art museum, the signals were converted back into sound frequencies and then forwarded to 70 loudspeakers set up on Maria Theresien-Platz, the plaza adjacent to the museum, and on the building’s façade. The live sound sculpture created thereby pervaded that entire space and a stereo mix of the live signals was transmitted simultaneously and continuously to the ORF Funkhaus in Vienna where the radio producers were free to use the sounds at all times for their programs.

Speeds of Time, London, 2004
Eight-channel sound sculpture
originally commissioned by The Parliamentary Works of Art Committee and installed in the Palace of Westminster

Bill Fontana’s Speeds of Time is a musical deconstruction of an acoustic icon and symbol of time itself—Big Ben in London.
The eight-channel sound installation transmits the whole twelve-hour cycle of the Big Ben chimes and the clock in a sound sculpture. Sensors and microphones were positioned in the clock mechanism and near the bells and so generated a spatial-acoustic composition in which, through the resulting overlapping sounds and repetitions, a musical space is created in which the ticking of the mechanism and the ringing of the bells combine in constantly changing compositions.

Acoustical Visions, San Francisco, 2012
Single-channel video with stereo sound

This homage to a great American architectural icon was created on the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. The main acoustic element of this audiovisual installation is the great foghorns of the Golden Gate, which can be heard from far away. In addition to this, the characteristic percussive metal sounds created by passing vehicles play a role, creating a constantly asymmetrical rhythmic structure. This is combined with film recordings that show the rhythmic shadow-play of passing cars in an actually inaccessible maintenance shaft. As a result, the inherent energy of the bridge as a living structure becomes visible and audible.

Harmonic Bridge, Tate Modern, London, 2006
Single-channel video with four-channel sound

Harmonic Bridge is concerned with the innumerable sounds hidden within the structure of London’s Millennium Bridge. A network of vibration sensors was installed on the bridge and transformed it into a huge string instrument. Triggered by the movement of the people crossing it, this plays a constantly changing musical composition. This was simultaneously transmitted in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern and in Southwark underground station, where it created an overlayering of actual and acoustically perceived architecture.

Studies for Acoustical Visions of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 2012
Dual-channel video with four-channel sound

In Eiffel Tower Studies Bill Fontana explores the acoustic quality of an architectural structure that, like many of the objects of his artistic interest, above all displays a strong visual presence. Through a network of sensors, microphones and cameras, which record the whole structure fragmentarily as sound and image and transfer it to a different place, the Eiffel Tower is transformed into an audiovisual composition. What can be seen here is part of a study of an architectural icon, whose realization is still being planned.

Desert Soundings, Abu Dhabi, 2014
Single-channel video with multi-channel sound
Commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation for the Abu Dhabi Festival 2014

Bill Fontana’s method – making hidden sounds audible – is also recognizable in his latest work, Desert Soundings, which was created in 2014 in Abu Dhabi. With the aid of buried accelerometers, he records the movement of every individual grain of sand and, as a result, makes it possible to hear the hidden voices of the desert. In contrast to the images of the dunes, the sounds of the wind-blown grains of sand are reminiscent of the waves of the sea breaking on the coast.

Visitors to the Höhenrausch experience this work daily after 8 p.m. in the movie theatre in the voestalpine open space on the rooftop.

"I have created many sound sculptures with iconic structures like the Golden Gate, Millennium, Brooklyn and Sydney Harbor Bridges as well as the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow. These projects have all involved creating live networks of embedded microphones and accelerometers on these structures to reveal them as dynamic musical systems. The most recent of these also had video cameras focused on close-up views on a single point that did not reveal the whole structure but rather a visual point of emanat-ing sonic energy that was a micro-view of a far larger sounding universe."
Bill Fontana

Bill Fontana was born in 1947 in Cleveland, lives and works in San Francisco.
His works have been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, and many others. Fontana became known in Austria through his live-sound sculptures realized in public space and on the Ö1 Kunstradio, in cooperation with ORF Kunstradio: Sonic Projections from Schlossberg Graz, 1988 (http://kunstradio.at/1988B/20_10_88.html), LANDSCAPE SOUNDINGS / KLANGLANDSCHAFTEN, Vienna 1990 (http://www.kunstradio.at/FONTANA/LS/index.html).
In the Prix Ars Electronica 2009 Bill Fontana was awarded a Golden Nica in the category “Digital Musics & Sound Art” for Speeds of Time Versions 1 and 2, and in 2012 the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN Residency.

Opening hours:
September daily 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
until October 19th, daily 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.


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Alle images (except otherwise noted): Otto Saxinger

Studies for Acoustical Visions of the Eiffel Tower
Studies for Acoustical Visions of the Eiffel Tower
Desert Soundings
Desert Soundings
linear Visions
linear Visions