Images from eight vectors
Works from 1953-2000
September 30 - October 28
On September 30, the Christine Burgin Gallery will open an exhibition of the work of Max Neuhaus , one of the first artists to have worked exclusively with sound as a medium outside traditional performance venues. This historical survey of Neuhaus' projects will include original drawings and documentary photographs, accompanied by notes in which Neuhaus explains the thinking behind his own projects while addressing the more general possibilities of sound as a medium.
Max Neuhaus first became known for his solo performances of the percussion works of Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage in the late 50s.
As a percussionist I was directly involved in the gradual insertion of everyday sounds into the concert hall, from Russolo through Edgard Varese and finally to John Cage where live street sounds were brought directly into the hall. I saw these activities as a way of giving aesthetic credence to these sounds – something I was all for. I began to question the effectiveness of the method, though. Most members of the audience seemed more impressed with the scandal of 'ordinary' sounds placed in a 'sacred' place than with the sounds themselves, and few were able to carry the experience over to a new perspective on the sound of their daily lives.
In 1966, Neuhaus made his first sound works outside the concert hall and in 1968, ended his career as a concert performer altogether. Listen (1966), took the form of a walk around the everyday neighborhood sounds of the Lower East Side, the audience led by a silent Neuhaus. Another early work, Radio Supply 1 (1966), consisted of a live radio broadcast involving the participation of thousands of listeners. Since these first works, Neuhaus' projects have been far ranging, including investigations into the nature of site specific sound (Water Whistle, New York, 1971), the relationship of sound to place and time (Intersection 1, Venice Biennale, 1999) and loud sound (a new design for emergency vehicle sirens for which Neuhaus received the first ever patent given for a sound). He has also created works which investigate the absence of sound, creating sound environments which are only audible at the moment the generated sound stops (Moment, Whitney Museum, New York, 1983). Probably the best known of Neuhaus' works however, was his project for Times Square, a sound work which alternately, hummed, roared and clanged from below the subway grates of the 45th street pedestrian island. Neuhaus insisted that there be no indication of the works existence, no plaque or marker, the work was simply there, waiting to be discovered by those who, stepping onto the grating, heard it. Installed in 1977 and working intermittently until 1992, there are currently plans to reinstall this work in the coming year.
I became interested in going a step further. Why limit listening to the concert hall? Instead of bringing these sounds into the hall, why not simply take the audience outside?"