Latest in Dia’s series of Artists’ Projects for the Web launches December 2, 2004

Nov 08, 2004

New York, NY-Dia Art Foundation announces the launch of Approximations/Contradictions, a project for the web by Belgian artist Ana Torfs, the latest in Dia’s ongoing series of online artworks. The project can be seen at www.diaart.org/torfs beginning December 2. An opening party will be held on Thursday, December 2, 2004, from 6 to 8 pm on the fifth floor at 535 West 22nd Street, New York City. The party also celebrates a new issue of A Prior Magazine, which spotlights the work of Ana Torfs.

For Approximations/Contradictions, Torfs focuses on the Hollywood Songbook, a collection of very brief, powerful songs written by the German-Austrian composer Hanns Eisler in 1942 and 1943 while he was in exile in California. She elicited powerful performances from a group of very talented, diverse people singing the songs, and weaves them together into something entertaining and beautiful yet deeply disturbing and compelling.

Torfs filmed twenty-one performers for Approximations/Contradictions, creating “close-up portraits” of each singer performing three evocative versions (Approximations) of a song. In the first version, piano music plays while the performer sings the song mentally, but not audibly. During the rehearsals for the project, Torfs discovered that every singer very quickly “acted” the song in a very specific way. She asked them to be conscious of this and to repeat it while filming her second version. A close up of the piano player, Piet Kuijken, accompanies the second version. In the third version the performer gazes directly into the camera while singing, dressed in his or her choice of appropriate costume, as if they were performing for a movie musical. An English translation of the lyrics is presented alongside the second and third versions on the web page.

Of the full set of forty-nine songs from Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook, Torfs selected twenty-one compositions for her project. Through his compositions for the Hollywood Songbook, Eisler was interested in translating his impressions of war, exile, and Hollywood. While the lyrics for his compositions include texts by Hölderlin, Rimbaud, Goethe and others, the lyrics of the songs selected by Torfs were written by Bertolt Brecht, Eisler’s frequent collaborator in Berlin before both men fled Germany in 1933. Torfs had Brecht’s lyrics newly translated for the project .

Torfs researched Eisler’s work extensively, formulating an idea of how he would have intended this material, both dark and witty (Contradictions), to be performed. Her assumptions were confirmed by Irmgard Arnold, a German soprano Torfs befriended, who worked intensively with Eisler at the end of the 1950s. Torfs traveled to Berlin to meet Arnold, now 85, who then traveled to Brussels to be filmed singing “Elegy II” for this web project. The artist searched for twenty other character performers, primarily actors and singers of multiple nationalities living in Belgium, most of whom are not classically trained.

Ana Torfs Ana Torfs was born in 1963 in Belgium where she currently lives and works. She graduated from the University of Leuven in Communications Science and then studied at the High Institute for Visual Arts, St. Lukas in Brussels. Torfs’ work in film, photography, slide projection installations and books often uses historical sources as material for investigation. Portraiture frequently plays a central visual role in her work. The relationships between text and image and reading and visualizing are brought up again and again.

Torfs’ work has been selected for prestigious exhibitions internationally, including the Lyon Biennial in 1995, the Montreal Biennial in 2000, “Exploding Cinema/Cinema Without Walls” in Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam in 2001, “ForwArt” in Brussels in 2002, and “Réalités” in National Galery Zacheta in Warsaw in 2003.

A Prior Magazine The launch event for Approximations/Contradictions also celebrates the release of A Prior Magazine #10, which focuses on the work of Ana Torfs. This volume serves as the first publication introducing the artist’s versatile work during the 1993-2003 period. Essays by Dirk Lauwaert, Dirk Pültau, and Jean Torrent are published in English, Dutch and French. A Prior Magazine is a series of publications on contemporary art. The magazine is published by vzw Mark in Brussels and distributed all over the world in specialized art bookstores and museums. Twice a year an issue comes out in which the body of work of an artist residing in Belgium or the Netherlands is discussed at large by means of visual and textual contributions. With an extensive portfolio, texts by various authors and additional artists’ projects as well as both visual and textual columns on the contemporary art scene, a substantial publication is established in close collaboration with the artist.

Artists’ Projects for the Web Dia initiated a series of web-based works in early 1995, becoming one of the first arts organizations to foster the use of the world wide web as an artistic and conceptual medium. Dia’s collection of web projects currently numbers twenty-three. Previous projects include Allen Ruppersberg’s The New Five Foot Shelf (2004); Marijke van Warmerdam’s And then the chimney smokes (2003); Glenn Ligon’s Annotations (2003); Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied’s Zombie and Mummy (2002); Jeanne Dunning’s Tom Thumb: Notes Towards A Case History (2002); James Buckhouse and Holly Brubach’s Tap (2002); Shimabuku’s Moon Rabbit (2001); Feng Mengbo’s Phantom Tales (2001); Stephen Vitiello’s Tetrasomia (2000); Diller + Scofidio’s Refresh (1998); and Komar and Melamid’s The Most Wanted Paintings (1995). All may be visited at Dia’s website, www.diaart.org.

Funding Funding for this project has been provided the New York State Council on the Arts.

Approximations/Contradictions was commissioned by Dia and produced by Belgian-based non-profit vzw NN with the support of Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (Flemish Audio-visual Fund, VAF, Belgium) and additional support from deSingel (Antwerp), and Koninklijk Conservatorium (Royal Conservatory, Brussels).

Hollywooder Liederbuch (Hollywood Songbook), music by Hanns Eisler, used by permission of Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig, Germany.

Complimentary beer at the launch party will be courtesy of Duvel. The Consulate General of Belgium in New York is co-sponsoring the launch event.

Dia Art Foundation Dia Art Foundation was founded in 1974. A nonprofit institution, Dia plays a vital role among visual arts organizations nationally and internationally by initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects, and by serving as a locus for interdisciplinary art and criticism. Dia presents its permanent collection at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, in Beacon, New York; exhibitions and public programming at Dia:Chelsea, in New York City (currently closed for renovations); and long-term, site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and on Long Island.

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For additional information or materials contact:
Press Department, Dia Art Foundation, press@diaart.org or 212 293 5518

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