Song for Sebald

31 Mar — 7 May 2017 at LMAKgallery in New York, United States

22 MARCH 2017
Song for Sebald. Courtesy of LMAKgallery
Song for Sebald. Courtesy of LMAKgallery

LMAKgallery is pleased to announce the opening of Jane Benson’s solo exhibition Song for Sebald. The exhibition features a, ten-panel, series of works on paper each with an individual component of sound.

In Song for Sebald, Jane Benson explores the themes of separation and belonging through a radical encounter with the writer W.G. Sebald’s novel, The Rings of Saturn. Benson begins with the physical text of the novel and a knife. By carefully excising every part of the text except the syllables of the musical scale - do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti – she uncovers what we might call the “potential music” of Sebald’s prose: a set of notes with a full tonal range hovering both inside and outside of the novel, untethered from the original text and radically disjointed within itself.

From that point of radical excision and destruction, Benson moves to the process of re-creation. Benson actualizes the novel’s potential music through a process that links together author, artist, composer, and performer. Each of the novel’s ten chapters produces a separate movement created collaboratively by composer Matthew Schickele; in each, the pace of the music is guided by the spaces between the excavated syllables (the spaces Benson has cut) and its emotive lyric determined by a set of improvisations guided by elements of Sebald’s prose. Each chapter/movement has its own mood, dynamics, and process of creation, depending on the characters and themes of the original novel, and on interactive processes determined by Benson and Schickele. The collaged recordings of each movement are encountered by viewers in sound pods equipped with headphones that are presented alongside each chapter of incised text, with the entire score played in the gallery daily at noon.

Sebald’s experimental fiction and essays demonstrate a preoccupation with displacement, foreignness, and extraterritoriality, reflecting his own experience of self-imposed exile from his native. Both thematically and formally, Sebald’s prose reflects its author’s experience of radical dislocation; his narrators often seem to stand apart from their physical and textual surroundings, the stories they tell – at once personal and impersonal – reflect the creative potential of estrangement and disorientation. Benson’s work explores and expands this same creative potential; her elaborate and multi-stage process creates gaps and absences in order to stitch them together over time and across media, in a process of collaboration that links together nationalities, disciplines, genders, and fields of creative work. In this, Song for Sebald not only gestures toward the work of a single author, but also speaks with urgency to our present international moment, in which the plight – and the promise – of displaced persons has become more important than ever before.

Song For Sebald will travel to the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio to be exhibited in Benson’s first survey exhibit, opening in the Summer of 2017.

Born in the UK, Benson received her BFA from Edinburgh College of Art and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited in national and international venues including MoMA PS1, New York; Sculpture Center, LIC, NY; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, CT; Queens Museum, NY; Socrates Sculpture Park, NY; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; San Jose Museum Of Art, San Jose and North Carolina Museum of Art, NC. Solo exhibitions and performances have been held at BOCA Museum of Art, Boca Raton; Henry Street Settlement: Abrons Arts Center, NY; Thierry Goldberg Gallery, NY; Black & White Gallery, NY; Roebling Hall Gallery, NY; Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NY. Benson is currently teaching at Cornell University, in the Department of Art.

Jane Benson would like to thank the composer Matt Schickele, mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, and the vocal performers Tomas Cruz and Joe Chappel without whom this project would not have been possible