Encounters: Katie Paterson

Poetic works of art that address our physical landscape in unimagined and inspiring ways. Till June 1st.
Modern Art Oxford, Wed April 2nd - Sun June 1st 2008

April 21, 2008
A grand piano is programmed to play an altered version of ‘Moonlight Sonata’ so the keys are moving as if an invisible musician is seated at the helm. For a split second it is like a digital piano sales room then a row of numbers (07757001122) on the wall in white neon signs slides into view. It is tempting to call it immediately, full of wonder as to whose phone number it is. Will the Artist answer or is it random? In fact it connects to a mobile phone sitting next to a microphone placed by Europe’s largest glacier (Iceland’s Vatnajokull) which is currently melting. An alarming sound: splish splash splosh transmits as water drips from the glacier, interspersed by crackles of the physical body defrosting. The fast-lane technology that now allows us to hear such a sound is arguably partly responsible for creating such devastating phenomena in the first place.

Katie Paterson reflects the landscape both as a physical entity that in this case is in a state of dynamic flux, and also as a concept. The notes that are being played by the Disklavier self-playing piano have been transformed thanks to the craters of the moon. The original notes of ‘Moonlight Sonata’ were transmitted as they read in Morse code to the moon and the reflected signals that returned to earth were then translated into letters from Morse and the musical composition re-configured. This so-called ‘moonbounce’ is unique for the signals that are lost due to the uneven surface of the moon. Behind such a simple, elegant installation there lie some mega concepts - a trend that runs through Paterson’s work. In an interview Paterson cites some of her ideas for the future as ‘black fireworks for dark skies; wave machines inside the ocean’ which all sound like encounters of the cosmic kind!
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