Still from: Annika Kahrs, Playing to the birds, 2013, HDV-Video, colour, sound, 14 min, edition of 5 + 2AP

Still from:
Annika Kahrs, Playing to the birds, 2013, HDV-Video, colour, sound, 14 min, edition of 5 + 2AP

Annika Kahrs

Playing to the birds from Sunrise to Sunset
27.02.14 – 20.03.14
Peter Amby Gallery

Opening: Wednesday, February 26th, 17-20h.

Peter Amby Gallery is pleased to present Annika Kahrs' first solo exhibition in Scandinavia.
The exhibition will present two videoworks by the artist; 'Playng to the birds' from 2013 and 'Sunset - Sunrise' from 2011.

Annika Kahrs' Film Playing to the birds shows a performance of Franz Liszt's piano piece Legende Nr. 1. St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds, which is played by a pianist in a solemn hall, according to the high tradition of the musical salon. The audience is, however, not comprised of people, but rather of domesticated birds. Their cages are carefully arranged within the space as soft toys might be arranged by a child so that it might give them a speech.

Liszt, the 19th Century Austro-Hungarian pianist and composer, took the literary legend of the Saint as the model for his virtuosic piano piece. This story, which is often illustrated in the arts and has become a form of religious folklore, tells of the following episode: Francis of Assisi, the beggar-friar and founder of the Franciscan Order, gave a sermon before a flock of birds that he came across in a field. As he came closer, the birds didn't fly away, but rather remained in situ, reacting to his words. What is of significance in this story is that Francis thereby believed that not only did humans have souls, but also the entire animal and plant worlds. The consequence being, that each creature had a conscience and was blessed with the ability to understand. Liszt translated this narrative into the language of music, which serves as a model for universal understanding.

In this translation process, the mimicry of the sounds and noises also plays a role, so that the high notes of the pianist are suggestive of the trills of the birds. Kahrs sets this dual translation – first in words and subsequently in tones – against a form of feedback with reality. The birds, protagonists in the original narrative, appear here as those 'actually' addressed in the concert hall, which for the viewer of the film, in turn, forms a part of Kahrs' narrative fiction. This strange mixing of real and fictional layers, while providing for surprise and confusion, is counteracted by the film's formal conception: With long camera shots, the clear rhythmic editing and a neutral observational stance, the film is reminiscent of a scientifically motivated wildlife documentary. The setting of the bird cages in relation to the grand-piano, at which the pianist impassively and with high concentration gives his all in the demonstration of his abilities, is tightly arranged. The result is that the bird concert comes across as a form of experiment. The outcome of the experiment is something that the viewer must decide for themselves, since any significant shift or conclusion remains evasive. After the last notes have faded away, the musician stands up, takes a bow, and leaves the room.*

In 'Sunset - Sunrise', 2011, one first sees an image of a sunset. But instead of a slowly sinking sun, the image fades. As the image becomes increasingly overexposed we see that this image of sunset is being projected onto a screen in a darkened lecture room. The overexposure is caused by the opening of a blind and the influx of daylight. As the image of the sunset disappears, we can increasingly make out the stage of the lecture room with a projection screen and desk.

Annika Kahrs (*1984, DE) studied with Andreas Slominski in Hamburg and Harun Farocki in Vienna, amongst others. In addition to other awards and grants she won the first prize in the 20th Bundeskunstwettbewerb des Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschungin 2011. So far she has exhibited nationally and internationally: 8. Curitiba Biennale, Brazil (2013); Hamburger Kunsthalle (2013); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2012); ph-projects, Berlin (2012); Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn (2011); Goldsmiths, London (2011); Maracaibo, Venezuela (2010). The artist's works are already represented in various private collections and museums.

The exhibition has been made possible through a collaboration with Produzentengalerie (Hamburg) and PH-Projects (Berlin).

*Text excerpt: Sabine Weingartner: Annika Kahrs, Exhibition catalogue, Kunstraum München, Munich 2013

Click here to read article about the exhibition