Janek Schaefer : Sound Art
5 December 2009 – 17 January 2010
At midnight on December 1 2009 the Winter Hill transmitter, located near Bolton, will be turned off and the analogue terrestrial television signal to Merseyside will disappear forever. For National Portrait, the sound artist Janek Schaefer will address what he describes as “the death of analogue television” in the UK.
Acclaimed by contemporaries such as Brian Eno, British Composer of the Year in Sonic Art, Janek Schaefer comes to the Bluecoat in December for a unique documentation of history.
Schaefer will make audio and video recordings of the last 24 hour transmission of each of the five analogue television channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five) with the dying television waves forming the structure of the work’s soundtrack.
In addition to this newly commissioned work, Schaefer is presenting a six room retrospective which spans his 20 year career. This will include his widely revered Recorded Delivery piece which music and production pioneer Brian Eno said: “….remains one of the wittiest and most interesting in the field of Sound-Art. It is elegant, economical and clever, and makes me wish I’d thought of it first.”
Created in 1995, Recorded Delivery is a sound activated tape recording of a parcel travelling from Exhibition Rd post office, to an installation room in the Acorn Self Storage centre, Wembley, London. Visitors will hear the mysterious world of scanning, stamping, lifts, vans, radios, singing and final delivery unfold, with a surprise highlight as we eavesdrop among hot blooded postmen early in the morning.
Schaefer’s solo exhibition appears at a critical point in his career as he establishes gallery-based practice, alongside a major new public art commission, acclaimed live performances, and numerous albums.
Schaefer trained in architecture at The Royal College of Art where he discovered that “sound is space, which is place”. From then on, sound became the focus for the majority of his projects including music or mixed media installations. The majority of his pieces utilise found sound materials. The context of each idea is central to its development and resolution. His concerts and installations explore the spatial and architectural aspect sound can evoke and the twisting of everyday technology. He uses simple analogue and digital techniques to manipulate recordings and situations. Schaefer holds two musical world records, and first exhibited in 1989 at The Young Unknowns Gallery, London, aged 19.
Accompanying National Portrait and Recorded Delivery will be Extended Play [triptych for the children of war and conflict], Vacant Space, Covers, Black Magic and many other exhibits from across his career.
The exhibition Janek Schaefer: Sound Art will provide visitors at the Bluecoat with a series of rich audio-visual experiences, including:
Extended Play (triptych for the child survivors of war and conflict) mixed media sound installation (2007)
Commissioned for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2007, Extended Play is an uplifting and bittersweet tribute to child survivors of conflict and war. The installation was inspired by the WWII system of musical codes called “jodoform”. These were musical messages broadcast between London and Warsaw by the BBC World Service after the midday news. Extended Play lifts and propagates a three note phrase from a jodoform that was broadcast on the day the artist’s mother was born in Warsaw in 1942. A cello, violin and piano are recorded individually playing their part of the 10-minute composition. Each part was then edited and extended with extra silences to last 15mins and cut onto vinyl. Multiple copies of each instrumental EP are then played on nine especially modified record players within a gallery space that is dimly lit and painted red, which for the artist is the colour of life, death and love. Extended Play won Janek the British Composer Award & the Paul Hamlyn Prize.
Vacant Space mixed media sound installation (2006)
An immersive installation using recordings and images collected in empty interiors, Vacant Space captures the life of architectural containment without human occupation. The installation works on the premise that sound is constantly present in the world, whether humans are present or not. On entering, Vacant Space appears silent. Panoramic projections of unoccupied spaces merge and slide across a gallery wall. Plugging headphones directly into the wall reveals a randomly shuffling soundtrack that influences the visuals in various ways, and creates endless new places.
Covers [a portrait of my record collection] Film projection onto black LP covers, 25min (2005)
The Vide space at the Bluecoat will be transformed into a black box where visitors can enjoy Janek’s film of panning close ups, scanning across the artwork of his record collection LP covers. Sampling the artwork of the last half century, the film is set to a soundtrack of foundsoundscapes sourced from the LP’s and other manipulated recordings.
Black Magic mixed media sound sculpture series (2009)
Janek has created a new series of sound sculptures that reference and modify iconic music related objects. Among the new series are “Pickup Putdown” – a record player with the needle suspended beneath a single helium balloon that you are able to pull down to engage the needle in the groove; ‘Found Sound Player’ – a portable gramophone pick up connect directly to a set of plastic pint glasses that act as the sound horn; “Inner Space Memorial [for JG Ballard]” pairs back to back speakers with their cones re-positioned to face directly into the interior of the speaker cabinet, with a big button you push down to hold and hear the void vibrate.
Modified Turntables & Vinyl
Schaefer’s Tri-Phonic Turntable , Duel Turntable , Memory Museum , Skate Random Play LP , On/Off LP  and Wow 7”  will all be on show.
Short Stories DVD (1995 – 2009)
A viewing station in The Hub space shows short films about many of Schaefer’s projects.
Archive Albums & Posters & Architecture Projects
A collection of albums and posters displayed in the Vide (2009). Memory Museum architecture project/installation  The Floatel of architecture project exploring dissociated sound