Degrees of Freedom

Experimental site-specific performance by BNNT (Konrad Smoleński and Daniel Szwed)

Degrees of Freedom by Polish art group, BNNT, The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, Tuesday 3 December 2013. Curated by Arts Territory. Supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and the Arts Council England, photo Miseongoa Shin, 2013

Degrees of Freedom by Polish art group, BNNT, The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, Tuesday 3 December 2013. Curated by Arts Territory. Supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and the Arts Council England, photo Miseongoa Shin, 2013

By guest blogger, Miseongoa Shin

During the past fifty years in the Fluxus era the parameters of visual experimentation within musical performance have been enormously expended. This experimentation reconfigures the traditional view of musical performance to a new, alternatively engaging experience, one that embodies sound and space with object and image, resulting in a refreshing composition.

In this light, Degrees of Freedom by a Polish art group, BNNT was not just an illustration. The performance was intertwined with sound and object installation, and physically occupied one of the current exhibitions at the ICA, Space Painting by a Chinese artist, Zhang Enli. The first impression on the set for the performance was overwhelmed by a dreamlike spatial aesthetic. The free, brightly multicoloured and unobstructed way of brush touch painting wholly encompassed the walls and floor. However, this dynamic visual impact was more culminated with intermittently bursting punk rock and noisy sounds by a drummer, Daniel Szwed strikingly banging cymbals and gongs. His drumming performance seemed to reach almost noisy utopian state. On the far side of the Space Painting, black wooden battens were displayed against the wall as part of the performance installation. They were trembled subtly sometimes noticeably by invisible vibration generated from the tremendous energy of the sound. Eventually they fell down on the floor during the performance as if they were interacting with the provocative sound. It created a curious combination of the visual media in a live performance context, with an intangible air of excitement about the intense noise and sound frequency within the site-specific painting show.

One of the visual attractions in the performance was that the artist, Konrad Smoleński, playing an audio object called the Baritone Missile which was designed by the artist himself. This weapon, or guitar-like sonic piece, was constructed with various things combining the elements of an instrument which has an extremely low tone, and sometimes sounded almost muted during the performance, contrasting with the drummer’s deafeningly loud and random variable playing. Smoleński’s performance paradoxically appeared with both inaudible acoustic tension and a humorous allegorical visual impact; he seemed to be armed as a freedom fighter. The artist, who has visual art background, has ironically mentioned that he cannot play any instruments in a musical sense.[1] Thus, his enigmatic piece looked rather like an abstract sculpture with a military motif as opposed to a traditional instrument. The performance seemed to be neither improvised nor intended by the two half-naked artists in black masks; it looked anonymously guerrilla-esque and simultaneously evoked unrestricted and sheer ecstasy.

Bomb 2003, Konrad Smoleński, Audio object, 102cm x 20cm x 20cm, photo Miseongoa Shin, 2013

Bomb 2003, Konrad Smoleński, Audio object, 102cm x 20cm x 20cm, photo Miseongoa Shin, 2013

The manner of the BNNT’s performance was closely associated with the Nam June Paik’s Fluxus object performance. The art form itself was mostly materialised as events or performance art pieces. It has been described as attempting to make something nobody else has done before, and through crossing over artistic genres and styles and making much use of humour. The attempts were meant to blur the borders between performance and reality, performer and audience.[2]

In short, Degrees of Freedom created the socially expressive interaction between the site-specific live performance and the viewers. It allowed them to perceive the multi-sensory experience not only by hearing and seeing but also by feeling their whole body with the powerful sound sensation. That being the case, Degrees of Freedom by BNNT can be regarded as a total work of art. This Neo-Fluxian outcome shows a continuing attempt to blend different artistic media and disciplines, and re-explores the inter-media practices in contemporary art.
 
Miseongoa Shin completed  her MA in Arts Administration & Cultural Policy at Goldsmiths University of London in 2011

 

For more information: www.cryptasilentmonologue.com 

For the exhibition catalogue: http://cryptasilentmonologue.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Final-Edition_Crypta_Catalogue_Misa-Shin3.pdf

Originally Published by Contemporary Lynx, 23 December 2013


[1] SMOLEŃSKI, K. (2013). S.T.R.H (Stones That Rest Heavily), The Solo Exhibition by Konrad Smoleński: The Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Exhibition catalogue pp. 26.

[2] HANHARDT, G. J. (2013). Nam June Paik: Global Visionary, The United Kingdom: GILES.

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