documenta 14: Athens Conservatoire

Harry Thorne, Frieze online, 04/2017

In a small room of the Athens Conservatoire, someone is tutting. A tut, a hoot, a ripple, a bark, and then a swarm of utterance descends upon the room. A hush, a fermata, and then we return to silence – there is a mad house, and then there is nothing.

The sound work is Robert Huber’s 2017 realization of the late Greek composer Jani Christou’s Epicycle (1968), and the fact that it remains separate from the original is important here. Towards the end of his career, Christou’s compositions became informed by his concept of the ‘continuum’, an abstract entity that was occurring, ever-evolving, and was open to all that wanted to enter (a testament to this: Christou’s composition was also performed by all of the documenta 14 artists at the opening press conference). Epicycle is visualised here by the many graphic scores, ciphers and sequences on which it is based, and represents not so much a defined, complete work as a conceptual framework for something that can never be fully realised. Similarly, Pauline Oliveros’s Pauline’s Sol, an undated A4 printout marked with four sentences of text that hangs nearby, reads: ‘I make this music here and now with the assistance of all that there is’.

The Greek architect and former Bauhaus student Ioannis Despotopoulos designed the cavernous Athens Conservatoire in 1959, but as a musical institution it has existed since 1871, and accordingly, the transformative capacity of sound provides a welcome leitmotif. Guillermo Galindo’s series ‘Exit’ (2016-17), for instance, comprises a scatty ensemble of homemade instruments constructed from the detritus found at a refugee camp near Kassel. In the adjacent wing, the Turkish artist Nevin Aladağ invites us into her Music Room (2017), an assemblage of household furniture, each item of which has been reimagined and refashioned as a musical instrument. Chair becomes guitar. Desk becomes wind-chime. Stool becomes drum. Each functional object is seen as something wildly alternate, a charming testament to the creative inspiration that can be found in the banalities of the day-to-day.


Read the full online article here.