Nevin Aladağ often uses music, sound and rhythm to explore differences and tensions between cultures. Her first solo show in the UK, Fanfare, is at HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery until 13 April. The exhibition includes Session (2013) – a video featuring drums, bells and other percussive instruments from Pakistan, India and Iraq – and Traces (2015), a musical portrait of the urban landscape in Stuttgart, Germany.
Ahead of Fanfare’s opening, we caught up with the artist to find out more about the exhibition, and her longstanding interest in sound and music.
The artworks in this exhibition contain sound, and rhythm as well as musical instruments and notation. How did your interest in music develop into a strand of your artistic practice?
Music has been part of my life since my early childhood, when I was introduced to musical training. Although I never became an expert in any single instrument, I’m sure that my interest in rhythm, in a sculptural context, emerged from that time. Beyond the purely formal aspects of music, I’m still fascinated by the way that it can operate independently of borders and territories. Also, music and sound can trigger movement, which offers a performative aspect that I also enjoy working with.
The two videos in this exhibition, Session (2013) and Traces (2015), are shot in and around Sharjah, United Arab Emirates and Stuttgart, Germany respectively. How important is the location of each of these works, and how does it impact each film?
These works are part of a series of multi-channel films that I have produced over the past few years. In both films, a selection of instruments are ‘played’ by the urban environment. There are some key differences between the films, which come about partly because of their settings. In Session – which was filmed in Sharjah – some of the instruments are not ‘native’ to the place, but arrived there with the area’s immigrant population, who came from places that include Pakistan, India and Iran.
A few of the same instruments can be seen in both films, although they behave differently in each setting: the same tambourine claps on the water of the Bosporus, rolls down a sand dune in the United Arab Emirates, and jingles as it travels down the thick green wine hills of southern Germany.
You have made a series of works, including Fanfare (2015), which explore music composed for military pageantry, the battlefield and the circus. Do these works have a different tone than your films?
A fanfare is a very short piece of music played in certain ceremonial contexts to introduce, conclude or emphasise performances by soloists or conductors. In this installation, the notes are cannonballs, which have undergone a kind of musical reinterpretation of their original military purpose. It still leads us back to the idea of the projectile, however – a fanfare is also played at the circus before someone is shot out of a canon. There are lots of different ways that this artwork can be read, some of them are political, others are more lighthearted.
Nevin Aladağ: Fanfare is at HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery, 12 February – 13 April.
Header image: Nevin Aladağ, Traces, 2015 (film still), courtesy the artist and Wentrup Berlin © Nevin Aladağ