Opening on Thursday March 14, 2024 from 6 to 8pm
Almine Rech New York, Tribeca is pleased to present Resonance Paintings – Cat Orchestra, Oliver Beer's second solo exhibition with the gallery, on view from March 14 to April 27, 2024.
Everything sings, and in the beginning, a song was everything: the Word, the Om, a bang that echoes still today. The word you use for it may depend on your belief system. What’s certain, however, is that the universe is a symphony of cosmic vibrations, from the first murmurs of an infant’s heartbeat to the thunderous death of stars. Oliver Beer’s work shows us that if we listen carefully, we can hear them. He’s been listening for as long as he can remember, since the days he would modulate his own voice to match the harmonic pitch of his childhood bedroom. Every room – indeed, every vessel – has such a note, known as a Helmholtz resonance, and for several years the artist, who trained as a musician before studying fine art at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, has been trying to tune them.
For “Cat Orchestra,” Beer has tuned an entire band. A chorus of cat-shaped vases, ranging from the classical to the kitsch, are connected to live microphones that feed to a custom-built keyboard and synthesizer. Each key, when played, activates the microphone in the vessel whose resonance corresponds to that note, so that a fin-de-siecle French absinthe pitcher in the form of a cat playing a mandolin sings an F sharp, and a Japanese Maneki-neko sings a D. With this, Beer has achieved the dream of Athanasius Kircher, the 17th century occult philosopher who first imagined the cat organ, or “Katzenklavier.” That hypothetical instrument corralled a group of live cats inside a piano, arranged by voice pitch, so that when keys struck their tails, they would cry out in pain. Beer’s real version is far kinder to animals and far more revealing of the sounds we hold within ourselves.