Western classical music traditionally splits music making into two distinctly separate jobs—composer and performer. The composer invents the ideas behind the music and the performer realizes them. Sometimes the composer and performer are the same person, sometimes they are separated by hundreds of years, but even across great distances of time and space the composer and performer can communicate with each other, through a series of written instructions, called a score. A score is a set of instructions, a rule book, a description of actions the composer proposes to the performer. We value composers by noticing what qualities of rules they invent; we value performers by noticing what they add to / change / emphasize / ignore in the following of those rules. They are two very different jobs.
There is visual art that is made this way as well. It is not always so easy to see, because so many artists are both the composer and the performer, both the rule maker and the rule fulfiller. For our show we bring together visual artists who are rule makers, across a wide variety of styles and disciplines. All of the artists in this show invent rules and then follow them; whether written or not, there is a score behind each of these works—a proposal the artist has made to herself or himself, that becomes realized in the physical art work itself. Just as is the case in Western classical music, each artist has separated the invention of the idea behind the thing from the creation of the thing itself.
There is a soundtrack to the show. Some of the works make sound. Some of the works invite sound to be made on or around them. There is also music that David Lang composed—the sounds of voices floating through the environment. We asked the artists to describe different aspects of their rule making, and David set their answers to music, distributing the voices around the exhibition. David used the artists’ descriptions of their rule making as his rule, making his score out of theirs. The exhibition’s title comes from one of the artist’s statements, with the word “double” resonating on multiple levels. For example, it is a musical term that can mean two instruments playing the same part together, or with one instrument an octave higher or lower. The term also references the artists’ double roles in inventing and realizing their own rules.
Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson
Curators: Ian Berry and David Lang
David Lang (b. 1957) is a New York-based composer who is active in many genres and media. His piece the little match girl passion, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and a Grammy Award in 2010. Lang is Musical America's 2013 Composer of the Year and recipient of Carnegie Hall's Debs Composer's Chair for 2013-2014. An active collaborator, he has worked closely with a diverse group of artists including Peter Greenaway, Benjamin Millepied, Susan Marshall, Darren Aronofsky, Ann Hamilton, and Mark Dion. Lang is co-Artistic Director of New York's Bang on a Can, which he founded in 1987 with composers Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, and he is Professor of Music Composition at the Yale School of Music.