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Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound

March 2 – April 13, 2011

Doris McCarthy Gallery

University of Toronto Scarborough

ORGANIZED BY the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in partnership with the Doris McCarthy Gallery, Blackwood Gallery, Thames Art Gallery, Owens Art Gallery, Kenderdine Art Gallery, Tom Thomson Art Gallery and singuhr − hoergalerie berlin

Seeing Sound is a thirty-year overview of internationally renowned sound and multimedia artist Gordon Monahan’s career. Monahan’s works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture and computer-controlled sound environments hybridize various genres from science, music, performance art and avant-garde concert music to multimedia installation and sound art. As a composer and sound artist, he juxtaposes the quantitative and qualitative aspects of natural acoustical phenomena with elements of media technology, environment, architecture, popular culture and live performance.


MacLaren Art Centre February 26 - May 29

Robert McLaughlin Gallery April 16 - June 12

Blackwood Gallery April 17 - May 22

The DMG will be exhibiting four major works by Monahan, including the gallery’s first-ever outdoor installation. In A Piano Listening to Itself (2011), piano wire stretches from the rooftop of the Andrews Building to a piano situated on the ground. Audio recordings are transmitted into the long piano strings through vibrating coils, and the resulting vibrations in the strings are amplified by contact to the piano soundboard. While the sounds heard coming from the piano might be perceived as electronic, they are reproduced entirely acoustically. Music From Nowhere (1989) consists of speaker cabinets in which the loudspeakers have been replaced with mechanical sound-producing sculptures. The result is a concrete composition that plays with notions of high and low fidelity, the possibilities of acoustical illusion, and the sonic history embodied in every loudspeaker cabinet. Other works to be exhibited at the DMG include Theremin Pendulum (2008), in which a flexible Theremin antenna is mechanized to swing as a chaotic pendulum, causing pitch modulations in relation to its motion, and Piano Airlift (1988/2006), an earlier Aeolian Piano piece originally developed with celebrated photographer Thaddeus Holownia.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major trilingual (English/French/German) monograph, marking the first time a Canadian sound artist will be examined in the historical context of national and international sound art. The publication will include essays by Gabriele Knapstein (curator at Hamburger Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin) and Earl Miller (Toronto-based writer/curator).

Generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Museums Assistance program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, Toronto Arts Council and Manulife Financial.


Musician and multimedia artist Gordon Monahan has created works ranging from piano compositions to sound installations. Since 1978, he has performed and exhibited at numerous performance spaces, museums, galleries, and festivals, including Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), the Venice Biennale, the Secession (Vienna), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Mak Museum (Vienna), The Kitchen (NY), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Merkin Hall (NY) and Massey Hall (Toronto). Monahan began his career as a pianist, but in the late 1970s began creating multimedia installations and constructing sound sculptures, often using natural forces in his work. Monahan has been Artist-in-Residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts (1990), the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1991), D.A.A.D., Berlin (1992-93), the Western Front, Vancouver (1999), Podewil, Berlin (2002), Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2006), Museumsquartier, Vienna (2008), and a fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts (1991). From 2000 -2004, he also led the Berlin-based group Fuzzy Love, performing on electric organ.

© University of Toronto Scarborough