Through the Soundproof Curtain opens on 13 July at ZKM | Centre for Art and Media, Karlsuhe, Germany – until 6 January 2019
Concerts by Norwegian singer Maja Ratkje, Italian DJ Valerio Tricoli and Polish composer Krysztof Knittel to celebrate the opening on 14 July
This July, Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Zentrum für Kunst und Medien in Karlsruhe, Germany, will open Through the Soundproof Curtain, the first major exhibition of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES), an important centre for the creation of exciting and original electro-acoustic music in the Eastern Bloc. The exhibition, co-organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and KZM, is presented as a part of the POLSKA 100 Programme, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of PRES and its influence in today’s artistic experimental landscape.
In 1957, the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES) first opened its doors in Warsaw, and would very soon become an important European centre for the creation of exciting and original electro-acoustic music. PRES miraculously escaped censorship during the Communist years and inspired composers from across the globe to visit and experiment with the latest in electroacoustic music and sonic art. Next to the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music, PRES was the only institution which enabled international exchange, hosting guests from the USA, Western Europe or Scandinavia.
The exhibition will celebrate PRES as a ground-breaking institution which used radical audio-visual experimentation to create a space for artistic and scientific innovation and creative freedom in an otherwise closed and controlled society. From visual arts to theatre, happenings, films and sonic installations, the artists, engineers and composers who worked in the PRES managed to establish a new language, open to the audience’s interpretation, which shaped the Polish and European artistic life.
The members of the PRES continually attempted to spread and promote new forms of music, organizing lectures, producing series of radio broadcasts and publishing papers on the subject. It became a laboratory also for visual artists and designers such as Oskar and Zofia Hansen, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Kazimierz Urbański and Józef Robakowski.
Many believe PRES deserves the international recognition of its European cousins: The BBC Radiophonic Workshop in London; the WDR Studio for Electronic Music in Cologne, the Studio d’Essai in Paris and the RAI Studio of Phonology in Milan. Founded in 1957, and just 300 feet square, PRES was designed and meticulously planned by Oskar Hansen, Poland’s leading architect. Over 13 years, PRES hosted close to a hundred composers, a third of these international visitors, and soon became known as a hotbed of musical inventiveness and creativity within the Eastern Bloc. Much like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, PRES was set up within the state broadcaster and conceived as a general studio for the production of incidental music for Polish Radio broadcasts and film soundtracks. It soon became an important outpost for electroacoustic music east of the Iron Curtain and under the direction of its founder Józef Patkowski, PRES’s influence across Poland’s musical life was significant. Performances of works created at PRES ranged from the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music, to John Tilbury’s Warsaw Music Workshops, to pieces broadcast on Polish Radio. PRES also fostered the creation of many extraordinary graphic scores due to a logistical legal requirement for all composers to provide a score of their work whilst working at the studio.
The project is co-curated by and Daniel Muzyczuk and Michal Mendyk, from the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of POLSKA 100, the international cultural program accompanying the centenary of Poland regaining independence. It is financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual program NIEPODLEGŁA 2017–2021.