Dani Gal: Sampled Histories
exhibition "Freisteller" at the Deutsche Guggenheim, visitors unexpectedly
become DJs when they approach Dani Gal's record players. The Israeli
multimedia artist is one of this year's Villa Romana fellows. The furious
performance he gave in Feb-ruary at the artists' house in Florence and now
at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin appears emblematic for the Villa
Romana's new programmatic orientation, says Tim Ackermann.
Dani Gal, Architecture regarding the
future of conversation, installation view, Freisteller, Deutsche
Photo Mathias Schormann
Guggenheim, May 2008: the black Pioneer record player sits on a
pedestal in the middle of the exhibition space, where it seems as alien as
a relic from the Hi-Fi-obsessed eighties — and as sublime as a Ready-Made
Duchamp. The vinyl disc on the turntable revolves; the arm wanders
along the record’s grooves and reaches the end. Then it swings back and
hovers for a moment before the record player kicks back into motion, as
though guided by an invisible hand. Through the loud-speakers,
unintelligible fragments of conversation can be heard. The visitor has to
draw nearer to the artwork to identify the voice of a man speaking in
English: "archi-tecture is like language… when you are really good at it
you can be a poet." One step closer and a name can be deciphered on the
record: Mies van der Rohe.
At the same moment, however, the playing speed of the record player shifts
and the architect's voice drops a few octaves, wobbling horribly. Once
again, only sentence fragments can be heard: "…honesty of the material…,"
"…nothing lasts forever…"
Gal, Villa Romana 2008
The modified record player
was created by the Israeli artist Dani
Gal for the exhibition Freisteller.
Through the end of June, the show at the Deutsche Guggenheim presents new
pictures, installations, and videos by current fellows of the Villa
Romana in Florence. Ever since1905,
the Villa Romana Prize has been awarded annually to exceptional young
artists. Along with Gal, this year's prizewinners are Julia Schmidt, Asli
Sungu, and Clemens
Dani Gal, who was born in Israel in 1975 and
today lives in Berlin, tellingly called his record player/sound
installation Architecture regarding the future of conversations, an
allusion to a record containing interviews with famous modernist
architects such as Mies van der Rohe, Eero
Saarinen, and Walter
Gropius titled Conversations
regarding the future of architecture. And it's precisely this LP
that the artist has rotating on two record players in the exhibition. Mies
van der Rohe, Saarinen, and Gropius & Co. explain their utopian visions of
a pioneering architecture. The fact that these discourses in
architec-tural modernism continually elude the listener's reach and
withdraw into unintelligibility lies entirely in the artist's intention.
His title already indicates that he is primarily interested in the "future
The Ballot or the Bullet! -
voiceoverhead, performance by Dani Gal and Achim Lengerer at the
atrium of Deutsche Bank in Berlin,
Photo Mathias Schormann
Thus, his work for the Deutsche Guggenheim is interactive:
sensors in the pedestals register every movement in the vicinity,
converting it into electronic impulses which then regulate the record
player's speed and volume. "Visitors in the exhibition become aware of
their movements in space and their relation to one other when they
manipulate the record that documents the main thinkers of modern
architecture," explains Gal. And so it's literally in visitors' own hands
how much they understand of the recorded architects' talks; together, they
assume the responsibility of authorship. One suddenly gets a sense of what
the Israeli artist means by the "performative act of speaking."
Gal, Grand Wizzard, 2008,
collage © Dani Gal
Dani Gal is a manic
collector of sound recordings of historical significance — a sound bite
junkie, as it were. At last count, his "Historical Record Archive"
consists of over 300 recordings of a wide array of events that left a mark
on world history, from the invention of the phonograph to the fall of the
Berlin Wall. The collection includes original sound footage from the
victory celebrations aboard the battleship U.S.S.
Missouri following the end of the Second World War, as well as the
resignation speech of the American president Richard
Nixon in 1974 and the coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II. Gal also owns records of speeches by Martin
Luther King in Washington in 1963 and Helmut
Kohl in Dresden in 1989. The majority of these recordings were created
for the purpose of propaganda.
Gal, The talking mountain of Israel,
© Dani Gal
the case of recordings reaching further back into the past, the crackling
and rustling of the vinyl blends with the speaker's voice. This provides a
corresponding feeling of authenticity and, in the case of highly emotional
passages, for goose bumps. "You can feel the room," says Gal, " the
situation in which the recording took place, the time and the quality of
the recording devices. For me, this makes it more interesting to listen to
vinyl records than, for example, to read historical speeches. I find it
interesting to listen to the situation that was documented." The audio
material is always a record of something that has happened, and for this
reason it accommodates the above-mentioned "performative act of speaking."
One could also understand the artist's perhaps most important thought in
yet another vein: as speech that itself becomes performance when Gal
short-circuits his historical sound material using the contemporary
principle of sampling.