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Jorinde Voigt - Both Sides Now

21 May 2017 | Will Rathbone

We spoke to visual artist Jorinde Voigt about her new London exhibition at the Lisson Gallery ‘Both Sides Now’, her ideas about art and how it should be viewed, and her background as a musician.

Jorinde Voigt is a Berlin-based visual artist whose work channels everyday perceptions of reality, and takes the world of classical music as a starting point, to create skilful, minutely detailed drawings that appear to be both abstract forms and carefully constructed diagrams. Her new exhibition, Both Sides Now, has opened in Marylebone’s Lisson Gallery and culminates in a performance born from her collaboration with British composer Beatrice Dillon.
 
Before art, Voigt trained as a classical cellist. She was educated “in a very strict, classical way; very disciplined. This made it impossible for me, at the age of twenty-something, to find freedom. So I had to give it up and find something new. That new thing was art. After some time, I took everything I had learned before and brought it to this new media. I recycled those experiences.”


© Jorinde Voigt; Courtesy Lisson Gallery
 
Both Sides Now features work from the last section of a series titled Song of the Earth. It is both art and music, but Voigt is keen to stress that although it has been “notated in a way that can be read by a musician, it’s more that it describes space in a modular way. The things that are happening in the work are attitudes, thoughts or mindsets.” Voigt explains that classical music “is always written with a way, or an attitude, in which it has to be played – as well as a speed, and so on. I’m actually doing the same thing – it just looks very different! For a musician, it’s very easy to understand – as soon as you forget the convention that you have to read something from left to right and as long as you are okay with building your own narrative. That’s the way my notations are done. You decide for yourself where you enter and then create your own narrative inside it.”
 
Voigt explains that her method of working is driven by a constant desire to “make a score more real”. She infuses her work with “the reality which one experiences every day. When you walk through the city you are creating your own narrative, but all the things around you have their own rules too. So I’ve taken this aspect of reality and tried to develop a notation that functions in the same way. It’s about getting rid of the conventions which make something unreal.”


© Jorinde Voigt; Courtesy Lisson Gallery
 
For Voigt especially, the idea of how every individual’s sense of everyday reality differs is a fascinating concept. Voigt has synaesthesia – a condition where the senses cross over and blend. “If I smell a perfume I hear a sound. If I say a number I have a colour. If I listen to music I see a landscape – I’m flying through a landscape. This is my reality – I only have this kind of reality – so my work very much embodies this.” It follows then, that she would seek to escape from the controlled environment that traditional ways of working, and learning, can engender.
 
This refusal to adhere to any one prescribed notion of how art should be made, or categorised, also bleeds into the dialogue she creates with an audience. “If you look at art, it’s not just what someone is telling you, or what the artist’s intent is. It’s much more what you, and every single other person, sees in it and makes out of it.”
 

© Jorinde Voigt; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The live performance and collaboration with musician Beatrice Dillon excites Voigt for this very reason. “For me it’s what I‘m most looking forward to. I can’t wait to see it! I think it’s very important. To put this aspect into a performance makes it really strong.”
 
The collaboration itself is a very raw and fluid process – the two only met for the first time two weeks ago. “I love her music. The idea at the moment is that we will make the gallery dark, with only one guide, like a lighthouse, moving slowly through the exhibition. There will be really deep bass; repetitive – Beatrice will refer to the multiple rhythms that are displayed in the notations. She also wants to include a lot of atmospheric ideas that she takes from the works. It will be a surprise for me as well – I’m meeting her for only the second time in my life tonight, so we’ll see what has changed in the two weeks since we first met!”
 
Her enthusiasm for her craft is infectious. “I honestly enjoy art so much – and the diversity of artists working right now is so important in my eyes. The issue of diversity in the world is something I feel very strongly about.” What has inspired her most recently? “Ooh – so many things! In Germany I was really convinced by the work of Anselm Reyle  - but ask me next week and I’ll tell you somebody else!” Voigt is therefore very excited to explore the wealth of art London has to offer. “I hope to see everything, but I’ve had no time so far to check what’s possible. The Tate will be the first place I head to though.”
 
Both Sides Now is at the Lisson Gallery, Marylebone, until June 24, with the live performance taking place on the final date. Entry is free. 
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