Staring Back: The Creation and Legacy of Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon

installation shot showing horn and video still
Installation of “Place Ravignan” and “Young Picasso”

 

 

(1) Place Ravignan

Jenn Karson, 2015
Found sounds, foley, Created with Max/MSP
Edison Horn, ca. 1907, collection of Jenn Karson and Ken Mills
Thanks to the University of Vermont Fab Lab

Listen to Place Ravignan:

 

This sound map follows Picasso from his studio at 13 Rue Ravignan through the adjacent streets of Montmartre. It also serves as a reflection on the experience of leaving the solitary space of the artist’s studio to again join the outside world. The piece is both scripted and spontaneous, with some sounds entering the piece without the artist’s direction.

Artist scoring of the sound piece “Place Ravignan”

 

 

 

Jenn Karson and Coberlin Brownell, two Burlington-area tech gurus with backgrounds in art, engineered the technology for Staring Back. Karson focused on sound art while earning her MFA in design and technology at the San Francisco Art Institute; she now teaches in the University of Vermont’s engineering college. For the street soundscape, she researched turn-of-the-century Parisian guidebooks, among numerous sources, then layered sounds of cathedral bells, a passing horse and cart, a cooing dove, the clink of tableware, bits of French conversation and other clips. The whole is broadcast from behind a wall-mounted 1907 Edison phonograph horn, which Karson found for the exhibit. – Art New England

(2) The Picture Was an Outrage

The intention of sound piece The Picture Was an Outrage was to create a fresh and inspired account of the power of the Picasso painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

Listen to The Picture Was an Outrage:

 

The Picture Was an Outrage is comprised of the most passionate documented reactions to the controversial work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at and around the time of its unveiling. The quotations reveal how the work shocked his inner circle and upset the art world.

In an effort to keep these historical quotes relevant and alive, The Picture Was an Outrage enlisted members of the UVM and local arts community to read the historical reactions from the early 1900s. Participants were invited to a professional sound studio in the fall of 2014 to read the historical quotes, the recordings were then edited to highlight the most dynamic moments, what most moved our contemporary readers.

The final sound samples were woven into a short, pop song structured sound piece.

(in order of appearance)

Alice Derain……………………………………………………………………………….Alison Nobile ‘15

Matisse communicated by Roland Penrose……..…DJ Hellerman, Curator, Burlington City Arts

Gelett Burgess………………………………………..Major Jackson, Professor, Department of English

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler……………………..……David V. Rosowsky, Provost and Vice President

Gertrude Stein………………………………Barbara Zucker, Professor Emeritus, Department of Art

Georges Braque…………………………….……………………………………………………Alison Nobile

André Derain…………………………………Angela Patton, Senior Lecturer, Department of English

 

Technology:

The Picture Was an Outrage was amplified in the gallery using in HyperSonic Sound Technology, which projects a beam of silent ultrasound energy into the air. The acoustical sound wave is created directly in the air molecules by down-converting the ultrasonic energy to the frequency spectrum we can hear. An important by-product of HSS is that sound may be directed to just about any desired point in the listening environment. This provides spatial flexibility, while allowing an unprecedented manipulation of the sound’s source point. In a gallery environment HSS allows the visitor to experience the sound as part of a comprehensive gallery experience. This technology creates opportunities for more physical and emotional listening, when the sound is of a rich multisensory experience of site, space, scenes and sound. It is a very different experience from the sound and speaker relationship we are accustomed to when listing to recorded music, the radio, cinema, etc.

 

Still from video “Young Picasso”

(3) Picasso at Montmartre
Coberlin Brownell and Jenn Karson, 2014
Photo: Pablo Picasso at Montmartre, Place Ravignon, ca. 1904
Thanks to Andrew Giroux ’15, and Alan Mosser, UVM Theater Department

Picasso is seen here in the cobblestone square (Place Ravignan) just outside facing his studio, a few years before he would paint Les Demoiselles. The dilapidated studio building was known as the Bateau-Lavoir, or the washing boat, a name coined by Max Jacob, a writer and friend of the artist. Standing high on the hill of Montmartre, it swayed and creaked in high winds and rain, reminding its inhabitants of the laundry boats moored in the nearby River Seine.

From Art NE

Beside the horn, the tech gurus created a video installation. Brownell focused on augmented reality while earning his MFA in emergent media at Champlain College in Burlington, where he now teaches. The video begins with the iconic photo of a 23-year-old Picasso standing in the square outside the dilapidated Bateau-Lavoir, which housed his studio. Slowly, the image fades to a black-and-white video collage of Karson’s engineering student impersonating Picasso against the same background, smiling knowingly.

Like the hypersonic sound installation in the next room—where the comments are read not by actors but by locally known curators, artists and other community members—the video component is intended to “make the piece really active for the campus and broader community,” says Karson. At the same time, the team wanted the immersion experience to “avoid nostalgia.” Karson adds, “The dissonance of having that student there…it’s so true. We’re bringing ourselves to that other time period, but we’re not there.”

– Art New England