Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957–1984

Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957–1984

Calvert 22 Gallery

Zygmunt Krauze, Henryk Morel, Cezary Szubartowski, and Grzegorz Kowalski, 5x, 1966. Audio-visual performance; the Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, 1966. Courtesy of the Foksal Gallery. Photo: A. Zborski. 

June 24, 2013

Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957–1984
26 June–25 August 2013 

Calvert 22 Foundation
22 Calvert Avenue
London E2 7JP
Nearest tube: Shoreditch High St / Old St / Liverpool St
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday noon–6pm
Admission free

T +44 (0) 20 7613 2141
info [​at​]

Curated by David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk

The connections between the visual arts and experimental music were closer in the 1960s and 1970s than perhaps any time before or since. Sound and image combined in artists’ films, ‘happenings’ and sounding installations. Experimental forms of notation were also created to stimulate uninhibited musical expression. 

Eastern European artists and composers were at the forefront of these new experiments with sound and yet their achievements have never been recorded until now. Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984, an exhibition at Calvert 22 in London, organised in conjunction with the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, fills in a missing chapter in the history of Sound Art. 

The first experiments in sound were produced during the euphoric period known as ‘the Thaw’ after Stalin’s death. Composers and artists in Eastern Europe were given new opportunities to experiment. New recording studios equipped with magnetic tape recorders and later, synthesisers were established, first in Warsaw in 1957 and then throughout Eastern Europe. New and often challenging forms of music by pioneers of electronic music like Krzysztof Penderecki were produced in these laboratories of sound.

The early happenings and actions of the 1960s were associated with intellectual freedom and reform. The exhilaration of experimentation declined during the decade and in the 1970s new critical forms of art emerged which associated sound with surveillance and censorship.

More than 30 works will be on display at Calvert 22. Key works include:

Destroyed records, artworks and recordings made by splitting and combining recordings on vinyl by Fluxus artist Milan Knižák in the mid-1960s
Acoustic drawings, made by Czech artist Milan Grygar in the early 1970s, in which the process of creating the image was both a performance and the creation of a new piece of music; Grygar’s work has never been exhibited in London before
Just Transistor Radios, a critical intervention into broadcast radio in the People’s Republic of Poland in 1970 by artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and composer Szábolcs Esztényi
Music Within and Outside, an exercise in self-surveillance by Moscow conceptualists Collective Actions, using photography and reel-to-reel recording equipment in 1984
–graphic scores in the form of contemporary collage by phonopoetic artist Katalin Ladik, made in Yugoslavia in the 1970s
Music Code Passport by Sots-Artists Komar & Melamid, a 1976 composition based on the internal passport required by all citizens in the Soviet Union
Kalah, a film and installation made in 1980 by Hungarian artist Dorá Maurer with avant-garde composer Zoltán Jeney, using chance operations.

Walerian Borowczyk, Collective Actions, Andrzej Dłużniewski, Szábolcs Esztényi, Bulat Galeyev, Milan Grygar, Zofia & Oskar Hansen, Zoltán Jeney, Milan Knížák, Grzegorz Kowalski, Zygmunt Krauze, Komar & Melamid, Katalin Ladik, Jan Lenica, Dóra Maurer, Henryk Morel, Vladan Radovanović, Józef Robakowski, Eugeniusz Rudnik, Bogusław Schaeffer,Cezary Szubartowski, László Vidovszky, and Krzysztof Wodiczko

Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957–1984 was first shown at the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, June–August 2012.

A CD of recordings of musical works in the exhibition has been issued under the same title by Bółt.

A book-length study of the themes in the exhibition was published by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź in 2012 (ISBN 9788684773748). Copies will be available for sale at Calvert 22 Foundation for the duration of the exhibition in London, or can be purchased via the Muzeum Sztuki website (ISBN 9788684773748). 

Talks and events

Panel discussion: Curating Sound
Thursday 27 June, 7pm
Calvert 22, free entry

The panel considers the conceptual and practical challenges that arise when working with sound-based practices in visual arts spaces.

Panellists include David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk, Curators of Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art And Music in Eastern Europe 1957–1984; Aura Satz, artist; Nathaniel Budzinski, Editor, Cross Platform Section, The Wire magazine; chaired by Lina Džuverović, Artistic Director, Calvert 22 Foundation 

The Wire Salon: In the Experimental Zone: Art and Music in Eastern Europe in the 1960s and ’70s
Thursday 11 July, 8pm
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL

David Crowley explores the politics of experimentation in Eastern Europe during the 1960s and ’70s, focusing on the sound works of Krzysztof Wodiczko, Milan Knížák, Zygmunt Krauze, Dóra Maurer, Zoltán Jeney, the Bosch + Bosch Group and others. The talk will be illustrated with audio and film clips.

This event is organised in collaboration with The Wire magazine. 

Further details on events can be found on our website.

About Calvert 22
Calvert 22 is the UK’s only not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art and culture from Russia, CIS countries and Eastern Europe and presents a dynamic programme of exhibitions, talks and cross-disciplinary events.


Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957–1984 at Calvert 22
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June 24, 2013

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