This autumn Charlottenborg presents an exhibition by Scottish artist Ruth Ewan, a project exploring the utopian power of music. One major element is a unique archive of contemporary musical instruments, to which the artist is inviting members of the public to donate. The exhibition is also accompanied by extraordinary performances using some of these instruments, staged by an alternative orchestra and happening at various locations including the free town of Christiania. Ewan’s project explores how music can be a progressive social force, but also how alternative histories of music and society might be preserved for the future - drawing inspiration from the past.
At the centre of the exhibition - which is part of the Copenhagen Art Festival - is the archive of contemporary musical instruments. Until mid August the artist is inviting members of the public to contribute their unwanted or unused instruments for display in this dramatic collection, which is being displayed in one of Charlottenborg’s largest galleries. Instruments can be delivered to Charlottenborg or can be picked up by the house from addresses in the greater Copenhagen area (for details contact email@example.com).
Ewan has often explored the role of music within alternative culture, and this is reflected in the utopian orchestra that is being assembled especially for the project, and which will perform using instruments from the archive. The Peat Bog Boorach Band (‘boorach’ means ‘a muddled crowd or collection’ in old Scots) features a range of young amateur and professional musicians, and will be creating its wild and hybrid performances at a number of venues across Copenhagen during the opening days of the festival (see below).
After these performances Ewan and the band will deposit a selection of the instruments into a lake, in an event echoing prehistoric burial techniques. The site is projected to become a future peat bog and the burial is intended to preserve the instruments for the future. The exhibition draws on the work of the Swedish music archaeologist Cajsa Lund, an expert on prehistoric instruments from the Scandinavian region - such as the whistles made from bone and wood that have been found preserved in peat bogs. The burial of the instruments will be documented in a film that will be screened in the gallery.
Part of Ewan’s research for her project has been conducted in Christiania, and the exhibition will also feature posters that have been created in collaboration with children from the free town. Christiania is also the venue for one of the performances by the Peat Bog Boorach Band, an event that will precede a special concert featuring instruments that have been retrieved from musical history. The latter concert will take place at Loppen, one of Christiania’s iconic music venues, and Loppen is also the location for an additional project by Ewan, an interactive jukebox featuring over 2000 protest songs assembled by the artist (on display for the duration of the festival).
Born in Aberdeen in 1980, Ewan studied at Edinburgh College of Art and is based in London. The artist’s recent solo projects include: Liberties of The Savoy, Frieze Projects London (2012); Music Without Masters, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2012); Brank & Heckle, Dundee Contemporary Arts (2011). The artist’s recent group exhibitions include: The Human Pattern, Kunsthall Oslo (2011); Life, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2011); Younger Than Jesus, New Museum, New York (2009); Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Britain, London (2009).
Copenhagen Art Festival is supported by the Danish Arts Council. Ewan’s exhibition has received additional support from Creative Scotland, the British Council and the Danish Arts Council’s DIVA programme. The exhibition is curated by Charlottenborg curator Rhea Dall and is accompanied by a publication that is being made in collaboration with Dundee Contemporary Arts (available from October, price 40 kr.)