Exhibiting Polyphony

Exhibiting Polyphony

A seminary in parallel with the conceptual and theoretical formulation of the exhibition “Polyphon. Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton”

In 2021 the DFK Paris will continue its investigation into artistic relations by hosting a seminar on the subject of polyphony. Asking the question how polyphony can be exhibited, it will run in parallel with the conceptual and theoretical formulation of the exhibition “Polyphon. Mehrstimmigkeit in Bild und Ton” to be organised by Anne Zeitz in 2021 in Gera (in collaboration with Claudia Tittel) and in 2022 in its partnership town Saint-Denis, with the participation of students from the universities Rennes 2 and Paris 8 in France and the Universität der Künste in Berlin (for more information, click on the logos below).

Referred to in the field of art, in particular in sonic practices, polyphony is associated with, on the one hand, a process of musical writing and, on the other, the notion developed by Mikhail Bakhtin in The Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics to characterize the Russian author’s novels, before it enriches more broadly the exploitation by artistic practices of “the multiplicity of independent consciousness’s, diverse ideologies and different languages(Claire Stolz). In this aspiration to embrace diversity, polyphony not only calls on hearing, it rouses all the senses. The coming together of points of view and voices stimulates the emergence of harmony and unison as much as cacophony or conflict; understanding these aspects through an exhibition questions how listening to individual and collective expressions should be related.

Nurturing reflection on artistic relations from the standpoint of polyphony means placing – at the heart of observation – not only artistic practices as a research subject, but also a multi-layered notion within which links are woven of different kinds and qualities: between the historian and the perspectives from which he tackles his subject, between the author and his heroes, between the artist and his works, between the materials with which the works are created, or between the artist, his works, the place of exhibition and the viewer. How can this multiplicity of visions of the world be rendered? Can we particularise the constituent elements without losing their composite nature?

Starting from artistic approaches that explore polyphony and from attention to the legacies of Bakhtinian theory, in addition to examining the various facets of this notion, the seminar will explore the meeting points between musical process and literary theory. It will also analyse the sound metaphors used by Bakhtin while also considering their limits for artistic thought.

Seminar sessions on different days will explore what constitutes polyphony and its effects, whether from the standpoints of ethnomusicology, sound practices or literary studies. No particular approach will be favoured, but acknowledgement will be made of their variety and the consideration given to the effects of the methodological choices on the sense given to analyses of the term. Based on meetings between artists whose works question polyphony and researchers from different academic backgrounds whose work investigates the notion, the seminar will encourage reflection on ways to understand polyphony within the framework of an exhibition and will include both conceptual and material issues.


Max Neuhaus, Audium, 1980, detail, pencil on paper, 95,5 x 120 cm (© Estate Max Neuhaus)Max Neuhaus, Audium, 1980, detail, pencil on paper, 95,5 x 120 cm (© Estate Max Neuhaus)


Program of the seminar:

The sessions will be broadcasted by ∏-node, experimental platform for the development of an hybrid web/FM/DAB+ radio format.

19 March 2021, 2-5 pm
Exhibiting Polyphony: An Introduction
with Mathilde Arnoux, Séverine Cauchy, Matthieu Saladin, Jan Thoben, Anne Zeitz and students from Rennes 2, Paris 8 and UdK Berlin

9 April 2021, 2-5 pm
Deciphering Polyphony
with Simha Arom and Vincent Meessen

20 May 2021, 2-5 pm
Modalities of Polyphony
with Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Caryl Emerson’s ideas

18 June 2021, 2-5 pm
Resonance and Polyphony
with Félicia Atkinson and David Toop

All sessions will take place at the DFK Paris. Students and researcher are invited to take part via Zoom. To take part in the sessions via Zoom and access the reader, please send a message to marnoux@dfk-paris.org or anne.zeitz@univ-rennes2.fr.


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Mathilde Arnoux

Dr. habil. Mathilde Arnoux

Research Director / Head of French Publications
Phone +33 (0)1 42 60 41 24