The Piano: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Exhibition
September 29, 2012 7pm to Sunrise
Curated by Barbara Fischer
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
The sounds of multiple upright and grand pianos fill the great halls of Hart House as artists pay homage to the iconic instrument – flexing its wires, striking its chords, gutting its inerts, working its pedals, sounding the back frame, hammering the keys, striking the soundboard, and ringing its planks, plate, ribs, bridges, strings, tuning pins, and pressure bars.
A perennial favourite of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Hart House will once again host a series of special projects throughout its spectacular and inviting spaces. This year’s focus is on the iconic musical instrument of the piano—silenced and fortified, turned inside out and upside down. Live performances and video installations by six internationally renowned artists will set the rooms of Hart House on musical fire with an encyclopaedic, acoustical experience of the piano to unusual and powerful effects.
Staged in the Great Hall of the house, Gordon Monahan performs Piano Mechanics, a work in nine movements that features extreme, un-pianistic keyboard techniques to excavate acoustical sounds that are not normally associated with the piano. In the courtyard, visitors will find Monahan’s Piano Listening to itself; its strings attached to building, it resonates in the breeze of the night. Patrick Bernatchez has an upside down, suspended pianist playing an upside down piano in a vertiginous film produced by a camera swerving through the elliptical space of a large concert hall. Michael Snow’s installation with four projection screens and speakers captures four solo compositions for piano performed by the artist himself and played together to form a virtual piano quartet. Titled Piano Sculpture, the experience is of music as a concrete, three-dimensional soundscape – something made with the hands and built out of bodily movements.
Toronto composer Stephen Parkinson will perform Lithuanian-born American artist and founding member of Fluxus George Maciunas’ Piano Piece #13 (for Nam June Paik). Starting at 9pm, and lasting approximately 15 minutes, the performance involves silencing the iconic classical instrument by nailing down all its keys – a work not to be missed. A riveting video by Euan Macdonald, 9000 pieces, records the intricate mechanisms of a piano being vigorously tested by a machine designed to determine the endurance of pianos at a musical instrument factory in Shanghai, which exports high quality pianos around the world. Amateur pianist Tim Lee performs J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations: Aria, BWV 988 — with his right and left hand separately. The piece literally comes together as the two hands are played back on two television monitors, placed side by side, rendering an awkward, but recognizable Aria, in this homage to Glenn Gould, or, to the pianist’s fate in the age of digital recording.
Finally, visitors can join Dean Baldwin at the Piano Bar by the fireplace in Hart House’s Music Room. Baldwin’s legendary barchitecture has been a part of Hart House’s Nuit Blanche since 2008 [from the famous MiNiBAR and the Algonquin Tiki Tiki Hut, to last year’s Grasshopper Hive Bar (2011)], and will once again be open this year, serving drinks and food between 7pm and 1am.
We gratefully acknowledge Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, with additional project support from the University of Toronto ArtsZone.
Title Image: Installation view of The Piano: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Exhibition, 2012.