Leeds music stars Kaiser Chiefs take over York Art Gallery

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 December 2018

Kaiser Chiefs have got this curation malarkey licked Photo: Dani Beck

Kaiser Chiefs have got this curation malarkey licked Photo: Dani Beck

Dani Beck

Unique, experimental exhibition, When All is Quiet explores the boundaries between art and music.

The band agreed on Pact by John Hoyland, 1978The band agreed on Pact by John Hoyland, 1978

Ricky, Simon, Nick, Andrew and Vijay are deep in conversation. Not with each other, but with a collection of art that spans more than 600 years.

The members of the multi-award-winning Leeds indie band, Kaiser Chiefs, were challenged to explore the boundaries between art and music and the result is the unique, experimental exhibition, When All is Quiet.

Described as ‘Kaiser Chiefs in conversation with York Art Gallery’, the intriguing visual dialogue opens at the Exhibition Square venue on December 14th and runs through to March 10th.

Using their experience as musicians as a starting point, the band chose to rethink sound as a medium, inviting art-lovers to join them in exploring the Venn diagram formed by music, art, creation and performance.

That We May Never Meet Again by Jack Butler Yeats, 1952-58, made the cutThat We May Never Meet Again by Jack Butler Yeats, 1952-58, made the cut

‘When York Art Gallery approached us as a band to work with their collection, we thought it sounded like an exciting proposition and wondered where it could lead,’ they explained. ‘As we started to look into the archive, the works seemed to suggest connections with music beyond the approach of pairing or translating. We found that we were thinking about sound in a wider sense.

‘We are not artists, we are musicians, so we’ve chosen to use this opportunity to work with the gallery to explore sound as a medium – our medium – and to open it up further for us and for the viewer/listener.’

So, how has this worked in practice?

They began by gathering together works by internationally regarded sound artists that have particularly resonated with the band while on their travels and inspired them to look at sound in new ways.

Giving a nod to their Yorkshire roots with The Dormitory and Transept of Fountains Abbey by JMW Turner, 1798Giving a nod to their Yorkshire roots with The Dormitory and Transept of Fountains Abbey by JMW Turner, 1798

They then created a silent gig – bear with us; it really is a thing – using light and colour and projected lyrics to produce an immersive environment that offers gallery visitors a reconfigured experience of a live music show.

And, as a fitting encore, they selected a set list of songs in response to works from York Art Gallery’s collection that specifically reference creation, production or performance.

‘We are from the North and are always keen to work in partnership with northern creative institutions,’ they said of their collaboration with York’s premier gallery. ‘We need to make the most of these spaces, they are an asset and they are ours.

‘We make music that we hope appeals to people of all ages and walks of life. We hope our show with York Art Gallery will have a similarly wide reach and be both creatively challenging and generous to us and the viewers/listeners.’

The exhibition, which is included in the admission price of the gallery, will be supported by a programme of events, workshops and performances. There will also be an artist-in-residence to explore and riff on the creative process of making music.

Jo Killeya, head of public engagement for York Museums Trust, said staff were thrilled to be working alongside Kaiser Chiefs and were looking forward to joining visitors on a journey that will see the city’s impressive collections interpreted and displayed in a truly original and inspiring way.

‘As experts in creating music and performance, they offer us a distinctly different perspective on the creative process and a personal insight into the links between art and sound,’ she said.

‘They are masters of pop music and have explored our collections through the eyes of musicians, while hand picking works by artists who have pushed the boundaries of what art can sound like.’

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