Artist Interview—Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra | Met Exhibitions

♫ Music Plays ♫ My name is Oliver Beer, and I’m an artist
from England. This exhibition is called Vessel Orchestra. It’s a selection of thirty-two pieces from
The Met’s collection, which I’ve organized not for their aesthetic and cultural quality,
but for their acoustic quality. Every empty space—whether it be a room or
a vessel or a wine glass or a seashell—has got a note at which it resonates. And you can hear those notes just by listening. I chose objects that sing only the notes that
we recognize as harmony now. So that’s the black
and white notes of the piano. I’ve put a microphone in every object in
the installation, and attached that microphone to a mixer, which is attached to a keyboard. And when I press down a key, like the middle
C, the microphone inside is activated. So you hear, in real time, the musicality
of the object. The museum is like a vast multi-chambered
instrument just waiting to be played. A two thousand year old cooking pot sitting
alongside a Joan Miró vase or a Sottsass and singing as valid a harmony as them is
what this installation is about. Every object brings with it its own history
of survival. Those individual stories weave a kind of new
narrative together, and quite an unlikely one. It’s a kind of leveling of the aesthetic
and cultural playing field. So I’ve written a composition which runs
on a loop in a kind of player-piano mode throughout the exhibition. And on Friday nights, musicians and composers
will come and play in a live context. I really wanted the performances to be as
diverse and interesting as the vessels themselves. As I listened to more and more objects I started
to hear that there were patterns. You start to question, why does this note
keep recurring across cultures and civilizations? When you start thinking about a collection
musically, which has only ever been thought about visually, all these unexpected stories
and questions start to arise. ♫ Music Plays ♫

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