Exhibition Hall and House of Electronic Arts

Opening hours

Thu         18.30 – 24.00 h

Fri & Sat 12.00 – 24.00 h

Sun         11.00 – 18.00 h

The exhibition at the House of electronic Arts will remain open till November 13 2011.

The Festival exhibition presents circa 30 international positions – work to listen to, look at, and to experiment and play with. All the exhibits illustrate the theme ‘Electrified Voices’, the relationship of man and machines, for instance, or the way the human voice has ben staged historically to political effect. Several artists examine the medial history of artistic and modified voices between the poles of military technologies and Pop culture. Other works derive from the early days of video art, and use the spoken word to explore the parameters of the video medium. And yes, birds too are part of the show – with unusual song and voices.

Curated by Raffael Dörig, Katharina Dunst and Katrin Steffen.
Insert ‘Recording! Vocal Experiments since 1914’ curated by Michael Hiltbrunner

„Record! Vocal Experiments since 1914“ is a "exhibition in a exhibition" curated by Michael Hiltbrunner. It presents historic artistic positions, each of which evinces a very independent approach to recording the voice. The aim thereby is to render some unusual yet fundamental moments from the years since the inception of recording techniques both visible and audible.


Erik Bünger - Cardiff / Bures - Alexandre Joly - Peter Keene - Christian Marclay - Alexis O'Hara


Atelier Hauert Reichmuth - Erik Bünger - Gary Hill - Hörner / Antlfinger -Pierre Huyghe - Koblin / Massey - Jürg Lehni - Michael Markert - Bruce Nauman - Julian Palacz - Seth Price - Manuel Saiz - Max Phlipp Schmid - Alexei Shulgin - José Toirac - Ignacio Uriarte- Steina Vasulka

 Recording! Vocal Experiments since 1914:

Anton Bruhin - Uschi Brüning/Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky - Françoise Canal - Henri Chopin - Maurice Lemaître - Wolfgang Müller - Laurie Spiegel - Karlheinz Stockhausen - Carl Stumpf - Bogdan Zoubowitch

Guided Tours in German

Thu  20.30 h

Fri    13.00 h and 20.00 h

Sat   13.00 h and 20.00 h

Sun  13.00 h

Guided Tours in English

Sun  16.00 h

House of Electronic Arts

Erik Bünger

(*1976, lives in Berlin / DE)

The Girl Who Never Was (2011)

text, overhead projectors


Performance The Third Man by Erik Bünger: Sat 20.00h, Schaulager

Bünger mutely relates the story of the first voice recordings and traces a line through to the most famous computer voice in the history of cinema.

Janet Cardiff & Georges Bures Miller

(Janet Cardiff *1957 /

Georges Bures Miller *1960, live in Berlin / DE and Grindrod / CA)

I was in this weird ghetto (2010)

Telephone, iPod, 4’19’’


In ‘Dreams – Telephone Series’ (2008–2010) artist duo Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller work with the telephone medium. If one lifts the receiver of the old-fashioned table telephone, one can hear Cardiff‘s voice relating a dream. The physical presence of the old telephone and the female narrator’s voice make the account of the dream very vivid for the listener. The imaginary partner in dialogue seems to be simultaneously far and near, just like the fleeting dream, itself: ‘So much was happening in this dream and I can’t remember’.

Alexandre Joly

(*1977, lives in Geneva / CH)

untitled (2011)



Countless so-called piezo loudspeakers cover the architecture like a net, describing a precise geometric structure. The formal restraint of the sonar fresco fuses with unusual voices however, as simultaneously familiar yet alien bird-song echoes from the walls. In the work of Alexandre Joly, nature and civilization converge in complementary fashion. Joly gives space to the rampant, constructed, wondrous, real and uncanny in equal measure, and thereby creates poetic parables about the common thread running through seemingly disparate impressions.

Peter Keene

(*1953, lives in Paris / F and Brussels / BE)

Raoul Hausmann revisited (2004)



Artists’ Talk: Sat 19.00h, Lounge, Festival centre

For four decades now, Peter Keene has been building machines whose realm might best be described as the interface of art, music and a passion for tinkering. He has also shown a consistent interest in pioneers of electronic music such as Leon Theremin or Raymond Scott. Since the 1990s he has been working on reinterpretations of the optophone. The “Dadasoph” Raoul Hausmann invented this complex system based on the interplay of light and sound, yet it was never realised during his lifetime. In the installation on show at Shift, the vocoder is used to integrate the voice of Haussmann himself – who was also a pioneer of the sound poem – in the optophonic system.

Christian Marclay

(*1955, lives in New York / US and London / UK)

Cage (1993)


With ‘Cage’, a telephone enclosed in a suspended birdcage, Christian Marclay evokes the presence and the absence of the human voice in several registers. The telephone, an unadorned apparatus, symbolizes a potential yet imaginary encounter with another person. Yet even were it to ring, a vocal contact would not ensue. The image nonetheless evokes associations in the viewer with previously conducted telephone conversations, and simultaneously pays homage to the composer of silence John Cage.

Alexis O’Hara

(lives in Montreal / CA)

SQUEEEEQUE! a.k.a. the Improbable Igloo (2009–10)

interaktive Installation


Artists’ Talk: Sat 18.30h, Lounge, Festival centre

Performances Alexis O’Hara & Radwan Moumneh in installation: Thu 21.00h, Fri 21.00h, Sat 14.30h, Sun 14.30h

Canadian artist and performer Alexis O’Hara invites the public to experiment with its various voices in an igloo constructed from circa, 100 loudspeakers, by speaking or singing into the microphones suspended from its ceiling. The voices are then modified and played back over the speakers, and the igloo resounds thus with a fusion of transformed voices.

Exhibition Hall

Atelier Hauert Reichmuth

(Sibylle Hauert *1966 /

Daniel Reichmuth *1964, live in Basel / CH)

V.O.C.A.L. (2010 / 11)

interactive Installation


Artists’ Talk: Sat 14.30h, Lounge, Festival centre

In V.O.C.A.L. the machine tempts visitors to engage in a dialogue. Although the voice heard via headphones is unmistakably synthetic, orality is deployed as an emotional component, and the public drawn thus into a Q & A game about the differences between man and machines. Given the voice that addresses us, and its seemingly plausible language we conclude we are dealing with an intelligence of sorts, albeit one we would describe as ‘artificial’ – and the machine thereby acquires a personality.

in collaboration with Volker Böhm and Suzanne Zahnd

supported by:

Kunstkredit Basel-Stadt, Sitemapping/Mediaprojects – Bundesamt für Kultur, Museum Tinguely, Kunsthaus Graz

Erik Bünger

(*1976, lives in Berlin / DE)

Variations on a theme by Casey & Finch (2002)

Score, video, record


Performance The Third Man by Erik Bünger: Sat 20.00h, Schaulager

When a CD got stuck, artist and trained musician Erik Bünger was inspired to compose a work that was subsequently played and sung stutteringly yet precisely by a nine-member band. A rather banal disco hit can thereby be identified as the basis of the work. The composition is presented both as a score and as a video, and is available also with specially made locked grooves, on vinyl. The music thus runs the gamut of all the variations on a shortcoming common to the medium and its imitation, from the pop hit through the CD’s digital shortcoming to the imitated shortcoming as a score through to the video recording and finally to the analogue tone carrier, whereupon the specific aesthetics of the shortcoming can be reflected upon in turn.

Gary Hill

(*1951, lives in Seattle / US)

Soundings (1979)

Video, 18’3’’

Gary Hill began research into the tech potential of electronic image design around 1970. In ‘Soundings’ his focal object is a loudspeaker cone. He speaks about touch and sound through the loudspeaker, and thereby subjects it to a series of ‘processual rituals’. He buries it in sand, hammers nails into it, burns it and throws water over it. While Hill explores the interplay of sound, image and text we the viewers are treated to a dramatic presentation of the sensory experience of speech and image.

Hörner / Antlfinger

(Ute Hörner *1964 /

Mathias Antlfinger *1960, live in Cologne / DE)

Contact Call (2008)



Artists’ Talk: Sat 15.30h, Lounge, Festival centre

Birds use contact calls to initiate a relationship with other birds in their flock. The parrots belonging to artistic duo Hörner / Antlfinger have learned to imitate the electronic contact calls used by human beings...

Pierre Huyghe

(*1962, lives in Paris / FR)

One Million Kingdoms (2001)

Video, 7’

In 1999 artist friends Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe purchased the rights to a disused veteran Manga character, ‘Anlee’. They have since developed her as a multi-faceted artistic character, and use her to narrate their own stories. In this video work by Pierre Huyghe we see Anlee rendered in neon light, traversing a futuristic landscape, a jagged mountain range – a range that rises and falls in time with the sound waves of the narrator’s synthetic voice. Snippets from coverage of Neil Armstrong’s first moon landing, and from passages in Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ intersperse the narrative.

Aaron Koblin & Daniel Massey

(*1982, live in San Francisco / US)

Bicycle built for 2’000 (2009)

participatory web project


The work consists of the recorded voices of 2,088 individuals who – hired through Amazon’s ‘Mechanical Turk’ micro-job service – imitated a brief, sung sound bite that was sent to them without any details of its context. Once compiled, these fragments were revealed to be from the love song ‘Daisy Bell’ (1892), which the IBM 704 computer ‘sang’ back in 1962, at the official launch of its artificial voice. The author Arthur C. Clarke was present at the launch and later adapted it for a scene in Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, in which the computer ‘HAL 9000’ sings the song. In the film however, the modified voice of an actor is used, not synthetic speech.

Jürg Lehni

(*1978, lives in London and Switzerland)

Apple Talk (2007 / 2002)

Installation with computer and software


Jürg Lehni has two computers converse with the aid of commonly available ‘text-to-speech’ and dictation software. Each computer in turn reads aloud to the other whatever it has ‘understood’ of the conversation. Like the children’s game ‘Chinese Whispers’, this leaves plenty of leeway for wild misunderstandings.

Michael Markert

(*1973, lives in Nuremberg / DE)

kII – Kempelen 2.0 (2007)

interactive talking machine


Talk with Michael Markert on the history of talking machines: Sat 15.00h, Festival centre Michael Markert describes his object as a ‘voice-topological interface for gestural navigation in linguistic space’. Hands are used to control a synthetic voice, whereby the opening and closing of a mouth is simulated. With some practice it is possible to create sounds and abstract words: the hands serve as a mouth and loudspeakers as vocal chords. Markert intertwines physicality and artificiality. In addition, his work references the history of synthetic voices, in particular the talking machines designed by Wolfgang von Kempelen in the late eighteenth century.

Bruce Nauman

(*1941 lives in New Mexico / US)

Lip Sync (1969)

Video, 60’

In the one-hour video ‘Lip Sync’ we see an upside-down close-up of Nauman’s mouth, whispering ‘lip sync’, in a strict rhythm. The video image and audio track shift in and out of sync, which makes the image and sound seem strangely skewed, and draws the viewer’s attention to the cause of this supposed distortion, namely the video medium itself. Created in 1969, ‘Lip Sync’ is one among numerous works to address and reflect on the parameters of what was a novel medium at the time. With the advent of video as a means to combine image and sound, synchronization and motion picture production became much simpler, than they had hitherto been in film.

Julian Palacz

(*1983, lives in Vienna AT)

algorithmic search for love (2010)

interactive Installation


Artists’ Talk: Sat 19.30h, Lounge, Festival centre

How do we deal with the huge mass of stored and archived information? Julian Palacz has developed software to assure a new way of accessing audio-visual archive material. His search engine explores sound recordings. The public can enter a sequence of words, whereupon Palacz’s engine plays audio-clips from films in which these words occur.

Seth Price

(*1973, lives in New York / US)

Non Speech (2010)

Video, 3’33’’

Seth Price’s video work ‘Non Speech’ comprises two distinct sensory levels merged in an unsettling whole. It draws on footage of various US Army training manoeuvres, which was created to demonstrate the United States’ military upgrade in the wake of 9/11; and it is underscored by an experimental soundtrack Price made in 2003: a soundtrack he says he made for no particular purpose, but decided ultimately to use for the army footage. The ambivalent, hesitant and almost informal recorded voices seem to impart some ‘inner life’ to the upstanding soldiers shown serving the nation, and thereby hint at another face of war yet without moralizing.

Manuel Saiz

(*1961, lives in London / UK)

Specialized Technicians Required: Being Luis Porcar (2005)

Video, 2’

When films are dubbed, two persons are fused – the original actor is given the voice of another. In Spain, Luis Porcar’s voice regularly replaces that of George Clooney or John Malkovich, among others. In Manuel Saiz’s video the tables are turned: for once, Porcar can be seen but not heard. He personally relates how this came about – but with a stranger’s voice.

Max Philipp Schmid

(*1962, lives in Basel / CH)

Der Imitator (2007)

2-channel video installation, 6’49’’

with: Jo Dunkel; Producer: Stella Händler; Lighting: Dominik Keller


Artists’ Talk: Sat 14.00h, Lounge, Festival centre

The Imitator is a test set-up: a man sitting in a black box in a red shirt looks into the camera while leaning forward slightly into the right-hand side of the frame. He is an actor, commissioned to improvise an attack of rage. The performance was recorded then slowed down by technical means and played back to him in order that he might imitate the recording; as the slowed down version was played without a soundtrack, the actor was obliged to lip-read his video’d self to decipher ‘his’ sounds. An experiment that seemed, in technical terms, to be perfectly feasible, proved in reality to be a nerve-shattering task.

Alexei Shulgin

(*1963, lives in London / UK)

386dx (1998)

Intel 386 DX Computer, Software

In the late 1990s, the Russian net.art pioneer Alexei Shulgin began using simple software to get the modest and already outmoded Intel 386dx computer to sing. The 386dx has since been deployed firstly, in Shulgin’s live acts – lo-tech renditions of rock concerts, for which the artist also slings a keyboard round his neck – and secondly, as a street musician, with a great repertoire of synthetic acapella covers of famous pop hits – and the same repertoire awaits us this year at Shift.

José Toirac

(*1966, lives in Havana / CU)

Opus (2005)

Video, 4’49’’

In this video piece José Toirac presents a condensed version of one of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s marathon speeches to the nation, which generally are broadcast on TV. While naked statistics roll in quick succession over the screen, black on white, Castro’s speech shrinks acoustically to a mechanical recitation, bereft of all meaning. Toirac subverts Castro’s legendary rhetoric and thereby poses no mean challenge to the mechanisms of political propaganda.

Ignacio Uriarte

(*1972, lives in Berlin / DE)

The History of the Typewriter recited by Michael Winslow (2009)

HD-Video, 20’52’’

The first step Ignacio Uriarte took in ‘writing’ his history of the typewriter was to record the sound of 62 typewriters of different origin, eras, brands and type. The actor Michael Winslow then imitated a selection of these sounds. Uriarte thereby composed an almost century-long historiography, as well as a memento of this largely obsolete yet nonetheless extremely influential part of commercial culture. By translating the sound of the machine into a sound brought forth by human vocal chords, and also by stating the name and production date of each individual machine, Uriarte successfully lends a touch of humanity to the epitome of rationality, bureaucracy and propriety, as well as humour and vitality to nostalgia.

Steina Vasulka

(*1940, lives in Santa Fe / US) in collaboration with Joan La Barbara

Voice Windows (1986)

Video, 8’10’’

Steina Vasulka ranks among the major pioneers of media and video art. She pursued a classical musical education, and sound is often pivotal to her work. In ‘Voice Windows’ she uses her voice to control two multi-layered landscapes images shown on a single monitor. Rhythms, colours and images interweave in a subjective tapestry of sound.

Aufnahme! Stimmexperimente seit 1914

Anton Bruhin

(*1949 in Lachen / CH, lives in Zürich / CH)

rotomotor – ein motorisches idiotikon (1978)

Audiopoesie (28’17’’)

Artist Anton Bruhin, known also for his talent on the trump (aka mouth harp), created various sound poems and spoken word pieces in Swiss German in the 1970s, in which he combined meaningful words in nonsensical ways. While his Heldengesänge (Heroes’ Songs) from 1977 were suggestive still of a narrative, the sequence of lyrics on rotomotor amounted virtually to sculptured sound. The LP’s flip-side offered up experimental rock featuring guitarist Stefan Wittwer – Bruhin was already then a maestro of contrasts.

Released by Sunrise Records in 1978, on an LP that also featured neun improvisierte stücke (1974) by Anton Bruhin and Stephan Wittwer; re-released on CD by Alga Marghen Records in 2001 – without the ‘nine improvised pieces’, but with other recordings from 1976–77.

Uschi Brüning/Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky

(*1947 in Leipzig / DDR

and *1933 in Güstrow / DDR, live in Berlin / DE)

Skizzen (1987)

Composition: Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, LP Kontraste, Amiga Jazz Records (5’35’’)

Hit singer Uschi Brüning and jazz saxophonist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky have been jamming also as a duo since the 1980s, and rank high on the East German jazz scene. The interwoven intensity of her voice and his sax can be keenly felt on the albums Das neue Usel, released on FMP (in West Berlin) and Kontraste, released on Amiga (in East Berlin), especially in the piece Skizzen. The duo’s ‘Usel’ – a made-up nonsense word – was read at the time as a statement of defiance: no one could forbid this duo to speak, or to act as if it had nothing to say!

Françoise Canal

(*1944 in Paris / FR, lebt ebenda)

De la poésie amplique à la musique lettriste (1971)

grafisches Gedicht

For the Lettrist issue of ‘La Revue Musicale’ published in 1971, French artist Françoise Canal created a graphic poem. The tales about four children and the shape of a teacup thereby morph into word and sound structures – lettrist music. The aim of Lettrism was to reduce language to its basic elements and therefore pave the way for new meaning and new creations. Instigated in the period following World War II, Lettrism enjoyed a new wave in the late 60s and early 70s, and is now on the threshold of being rediscovered

Henri Chopin

(1922–2008, Paris / FR)

La fusée interplanetaire (1963)

Announcement Jean Ratcliffe, Voice Henri Chopin

audio poem (2’14’’)

The contribution made by artist Henri Chopin to artistic vocal recordings is of major importance. It was he who discovered and researched its broad-ranging potential, particularly by publishing in Revue OU, a journal he turned into a platform for further like-minded artists. His study Poésie sonore internationale (1979) is still considered a standard work. The piece selected here, La fusée interplanetaire does indeed take off like ‘an interplanetary rocket’ yet consists solely of vocal sounds.

Released as a 7” vinyl disc to accompany Revue OU – Cinquième Saison, no. 26/27, Sceaux, France 1966, then re-released on OU – Cinquième Saison: Complete Recordings, Alga Marghen Records, 2002

Maurice Lemaître

(*1926 in Paris / FR, lives ebenda)

Roxana (1953)

sound-piece with score, interpreted by Maurice Lemaître and his choir (3’32’’)

Artist Maurice Lemaître was able to publish Roxana (1953) and three other pieces on the 7” vinyl disc Lemaître présente le Lettrisme, released by Columbia Records in 1958. This was due also to André Beucler, an author who evidently belonged at the time to the management of Pathé Marconi, a subsidiary of Columbia. In addition to the recording, there exists a score for Roxana. The composition is vividly described as ‘a romantically inspired piece: a man contemplates the sea, dreaming of a woman he has lost’.

Released in 1958 by Columbia Records on the 7’’ disc Maurice Lemaître présente le Lettrisme; re-released in 1971 as the 3 x 7’’ box-set Maurice Lemaître’s Poèmes et Musique Lettristes with the journal Lettrisme Nr. 24. Re-recordings made in 1959 at the Soirée de l’Alliance Française and in 1999 at the CIPM in Marseille feature together with the score on Maurice Lemaître: n + Σ + ∞ / – ∞ – Œuvres poétiques et musicales lettristes, hypergraphiques, infinitésimales. A new edition based on the original was published in 1965, and again in 2007, by Éditions Le point couleurs, Clichy / FR, complemented in the latter case by 2 CDs featuring previously unpublished works from the period 1950–2004

Wolfgang Müller

(*1957 in Wolfsburg / BRD, lebt in Berlin / DE)

Housemusic – Starlings from Hjertøya Sing Kurt Schwitters (2000

Birdsong recordings (20’58’’)

published as book and audio-CD set

Artist Wolfgang Müller, a musician with the German band, ‘Der tödliche Doris’, co-founder of the Walther von Goethe Foundation in Reykjavík, and birdsong expert, visited Kurt Schwitter’s ‘Merzbau’ home in Hjertøya (Norway) in 1997, and discovered that the song of local starlings evinced similarities with Schwitter’s Ur Sonata (1923–32). Had the birdsong inspired the composer or had the birds, which are known to be talented mimics, learned his compositions and passed them down to their offspring? Müller’s work documents the birdsong and the state of the Merzbau at the time of his visit.

Laurie Spiegel

(*1945 in Chicago / USA, lives in New York City, USA)

Crying Tone (1975)

computer-based composition (2’29’’)

CD Obsolete Systems, Electronic Music Foundation EMF, USA 2001

The US-American composer Laurie Spiegel mainly uses synthetic sounds in her music. Certain among them appear to be natural, like the sound of drums for example, while others appear otherworldly. A preoccupation with voices has always been of major importance to her: ‘They are each in their own individual ways very much surrogates for my own voice in what each expresses.’ In more recent compositions her primary focus has been animal voices, those of mice and dogs for example.

Karlheinz Stockhausen

(1928 Mödrath / Dt. Reich – 2007 Kürten / DE)

Gesang der Jünglinge (1955/56)

electronic composition (13’04’’)

The premiere of the composition Gesang der Jünglinge by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen took place in the concert hall of the West German radio broadcasting company, WDR in Cologne in 1956. The electronically modified voices of a twelve-year-old boy and other sounds were broadcast via five groups of loudspeakers arranged in the hall. The boy sang excerpts from the Book of Daniel from the Old Testament. No score of the piece exists, only sketches. Musique Concrète inspired the work.

Released in 1959 as a 10” vinyl disc on the Deutsche Grammophon label, re-mixed by the composer in stereo in 1968, and taken in this instance from the CD Elektronische Musik 1952–1960, Nr. 3, part of the 100-disc Collected Works of Stockhausen, released by the Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Kürten, 2001. The latter is available by mail order from Stockhausen-Verlag, Kettenberg 15, 51515 Kürten, Germany. www.stockhausen.org

Carl Stumpf

(1848 Wiesentheid / Königreich Bayern – 1936 Berlin / Dt. Reich)

o.T. [Vowel experiments 1–2] (1914)

Recordings on Edison phonograph cylinders (1’25’’ und 1’13’’)

The German philosopher and psychologist Carl Stumpf founded the Phonogram Archive in Berlin in 1900. The majority of its stock consists of ethnological recordings of music from around the world, which were made on Edison phonograph cylinders. Stumpf and his assistant Otto Abraham conducted various vocal experiments in order to explore the media potential of the phonograph. The surviving recordings are documented on the website of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, along with an endeavour by Julia Kursell to reconstruct them.

Bogdan Zoubowitch

(1901/Russla – 1999/France)

Histoire sans paroles: à l’Est rien de nouveau – Fantaisie satyrique jouée par des Poupées animées (1934)

music by Jean Liamine (10’34’’)

The Russian-French filmmaker Bogdan Zoubowitch produced Histoire sans parole as a geo-political comedy on the Sino-Japanese war, which began in 1931. In the excerpt where the instruments imitate human voices ‘Uncle Sam’ steps into the fray, following an attack on a train by the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (the so-called Mukden incident). When the film was released in 1934, the future extent of this atrociously cruel war could not yet be foreseen. It nevertheless emanated an almost macabre levity, thanks to the score composed by Jean Liamine (1899–1944).