Skip to content
[12 Rooms]

In the November edition of the monthly changing exhibition programme 12 ROOMS, Jane Benson shows three selected panels from her series of works Song for Sebald, which she created in 2017. Here, reprints of book pages, as if they had been torn out of the binding, are lined up next to each other and on top of each other. The prints show illustrations, drawings, architectural photographs or reproductions of Rembrandt's 'Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp'.

Benson has carefully hand cut the text that originally comprised the larger part of the prints; cutting along the lines of the written text. Only the syllables do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti remain, those syllables of which, in music, the tones of major scales have been sung since the Middle Ages. Visitors can listen to the vocal performance associated with each panel, each corresponding in pitch, and with irregular intervals and leaps related to the spaces between the syllables, via headphones placed next to the collages.

The title of the installation series of image, text and sound, of which three of the total of ten "chapters" can be seen and heard here, already hints at it: it is about a conceptual, a pictorial and vocal approach to the writer W.G. Sebald, more precisely, to his novel 'The Rings of Saturn'.

Like the anatomist with his scalpel, Benson exposes selected elements in order to explore, to gain new insights. But there is more to it: Jane Benson uses the scalpel on Sebald to detach a piece of music, to tear it out of the original and its narrative contexts. This radical intervention by no means follows a purely destructive impulse; the constructive action that not only results from it, but rather is inherent in this procedure from the very beginning, lies in the re­creation of a syllabic text, a rhythm, a melody, further processed in collaboration with the composer Matthew Schickele.

The complete, original texts are no longer available here; nevertheless, rudiments can be experienced, visually and acoustically. The emotional elements of Sebald's prose, its moods and the dynamics of its narrative process are withdrawn, but at the same time enriched with the power of a musical realisation through the tone-subdued, sometimes melancholic and reverberating singing of the Italian syllables of the solmisation, which evokes the perception of an almost sacred atmosphere.