The American artist Bill Fontana is one of the pioneers of sound art. The material of his sculptures are sounds, noises, tones and everyday music, which he finds on site and interweaves with unusual acoustic material. How this found footage behaves when it is relocated into a different local context is an artistic interest that Fontana explores. Public space is his preferred territory, and as such he also considers the medium radio.
Together with Ö1 Kunstradio, Fontana has realized elaborate and groundbreaking projects. For example, in 1990, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, "Landscape Soundings", or 1988 "Sonic Projections from Schloßberg Graz", as part of the Styrian Autumn exhibition "Bezungspunkte 38/88".
The Kunsthaus Graz dedicated a large exhibition "Primal Energies" to Bill Fontana in 2020.
Remix Sonic Projections 1988 – 2020
In 1988 Bill Fontana caused a public stir with his project "Sonic Projections from Schloßberg Graz". This took place in the context of steirischer herbst and as part of the exhibition "Bezugspunkte 38/88". The exhibition space for all projects was the public space. Fifty years had passed since the so-called annexation of Austria to National Socialist Germany. And the exhibition, conceived by Werner Fenz, consisted of artistic interventions by 16 artists in the city of Graz. The concrete sites had been ideologically occupied by the National Socialists - the exhibition wanted to remind us of this function. The exhibition triggered conflicts and wild discussions around some of the artworks. Hans Haacke's memorial was even set on fire by neo-Nazis. Bill Fontana's sound intervention "Sonic Projections" was openly rejected, and acts of vandalism occurred around the loudspeakers installed at Schloßberg Graz.
Bill Fontana installed microphones that captured the everyday sounds of the city at eight reference points in the center of Graz, which played a role at the time of the National Socialist power seizure. From the Schlossberg, the sounds were sent down into the city, mixed with sounds that Fontana had recorded in other places around the world.
Bill Fontana made sounds that he had collected from all over the world resound through Graz. For him, these were beautiful and for him explicitly positive sounds - like a pair of gibbons in the Thai rainforest, the singing of an Australian lyrebird, a foghorn at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and so on. He wanted to penetrate every nook and cranny of the city with pleasant sounds, and thus exorcise terror. Through the sonification of the urban space he intended a kind of new beginning. For his exhibition "Primal Engeries" Bill Fontana developed an updated edition of "Sonic Projections". Due to nature conservation regulations, only very brief interventions could be broadcast into the urban space of Graz.Unfortunately, the artist, who lives in San Francisco, could not travel to Graz to make the planned sound recordings due to the current situation. Instead, he unexpectedly found some audio cassettes in his archive with recordings of 1988's Sonic Projections and digitized and remixed them.
Foto: Universalmuseum Joanneum / N. Lackner
Primal Energies Radiomix
For the exhibition "Primal Energies" Fontana developed an audiovisual installation especially for Space01 of the Kunsthaus Graz about the acoustic and visual aesthetics of renewable energies.
Since the 1960s, Fontana has been using sound as a sculptural medium. In more than 50 sound sculptures worldwide and more than 20 intercontinental radio works, Fontana has explored active hearing. Especially his more recent installations in Paris, London and San Francisco (some of which are permanently installed in urban space) contribute to the physical experience and cognitive exploration of the inherent sound of environments and their historical or cultural patterns.
Since the beginning of his artistic career, the artist has been questioning environmental issues through the possibility of a holistic perception of the "overlooked". With the radio version of his new installation on renewable energies in Graz, Fontana is moving in the field of artistic research and immersing himself in the acoustic and visual structures of water, wind and geothermal energy in order to make them sensually perceptible to the audience.
Mehr zu „Bill Fontana. Primal Energies” im Kunsthaus Graz
Sonic Projections from Schlossberg Graz 1988