Where sound meets vision

The artist Martin Creed is performing a rock gig tonight, and a soundscape is a contender for the Turner prize. Gillian Orr patrols the shadowy borderlands where art and music collide

If a band plays a song at Glastonbury, they are just playing music. But if an artist performs a song as part of an exhibition, then it becomes art, right? It is a grey area, indeed, and many exhibitors, curators, artists, and musicians are putting on events, each with their own differing response to that very question.

Of course, there is a long and rich history of music and art being intertwined; some of the best-known examples being the Dada movement's sound poetry and Andy Warhol's Factory. The two genres have enjoyed a cosy relationship throughout much of the last century.

At present there is a real trend to combine the two, with museums and galleries particularly keen to put on festival-style events and one-off performances showcasing both art and music.

Tonight Martin Creed, the Glaswegian conceptual artist who won the Turner Prize in 2001 for Work No. 227: the lights going on and off, plays a gig with his band at Edel Assanti, an art space and gallery in London.

Last month Be Glad For The Song Has No End – a festival of artists' music, took place in the grounds of Wysing arts centre, Cambridgeshire. Among the host of artists playing was Mark Leckey and Bob and Roberta Smith, as well as Creed. There was also a record-swap which allowed festival-goers to bring along their discs to exchange. In addition, Kim Gordon and the artist and musician Jutta Koether created a reverse karaoke, which encouraged people to record themselves singing to Sonic Youth's lead vocalist. It all took place in a field, much like a regular festival, with stages designed by the artists involved, various stalls and film-screenings.

The idea was to present music by artists who use music as part of their practice, rather than just artists who play in bands. A film and events programme also explored the idea of sound art and the links between music and visual art. The music ranged from straight rock to indie, punk, spoken word and improvisation.

Andy Holden, the sculpture artist who has recently had a solo show at Tate Britain, curated the festival. He explains his reason for wanting to put on such an event: "I also run a record label alongside my art practices, so I've often been putting on gigs and working with different bands. I started the label really to put out my own things when nobody else would, so in a way the two have often been entangled anyway, but it's the first time it's taken the form of a festival. I've put on art-multimedia, art-music crossover gigs but nothing on this scale. Sound art has always been quite hard, it's not so much even sound art any more; it's more artists making music as part of the practice, but a way of making music which is both music and also something else at the same time."

Martin Creed believes the music he creates, described by organisers as "an amazing mix of post-punk, minimalism and conceptual art" is linked to all his other work. "I think about it all in the same breath," he enthuses. "I don't personally distinguish between songs or sculptures or whatever. Each work for me is trying something out to see if that makes me feel better in my life. So colours or shapes or sounds or words are all quite mixed up together. When you're listening to something, you're always seeing something so it's impossible to separate the senses in that kind of way, let alone try to separate them from feelings. The way you feel is always going to affect what you're looking at or listening to."

When asked about where music ends and art begins, Creed says "The word 'art' is a very difficult word to use. If I was going to use it, I'd use it for everyone who made things on their own, whether musicians or people working with visuals or writers or scientists. People trying to make things up, I suppose."

But Holden believes there are differences between the two. "Art, I think, is more reflexive. I think it's more cognitive in a way. And I think music relies more on effect, it relies more on simultaneous feeling. The two operate in quite different modes but you can borrow, in the way art can borrow the mode of the written word, it can assimilate almost anything now. It can use the mode of music but still retain the fact that it is art."

One artist whose primary tool is music is Susan Philipsz, who is one of the four shortlisted candidates for the Turner prize, with Lowlands. Exploring the line between art and music with her "sound installations", Philipsz creates soundscapes by playing out her own singing voice at unlikely venues, including bus stations or, in the case of Lowlands, for the Glasgow International Festival, under three bridges over the river Clyde. She started off in sculpture, and when asked why she started to work with music and her voice, she says: "I started thinking about sound in sculptural terms. The physicality of singing and the emotive effects of song and how it can trigger memories interested me... I consider myself a visual artist; I'm not a musician and I'm not a professional singer. That's part of it: I don't have a trained voice. It could be anyone's voice."

There are also occasions where "regular" musicians are featured alongside more conventional notions of art. Another recent art and music hybrid event was Frieze Music, run as part of the Frieze Art Fair, which has been established to "develop the crossover between contemporary art and music". Originally conceived by Steve Mackey and Dan Fox, Frieze Music's varied programme has included bands, work by the avant-garde classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen ,and pop series, such as that co-ordinated by Franz Ferdinand in 2004. Last weekend, Hercules and Love Affair performed at Club Debut, and Baby Dee, a classically trained harpist and pianist, played alongside the Elysian Quartet at Shoreditch Church as part of the Frieze Music programme.

Concrete and Glass, an annual festival of music and art that takes place around Shoreditch, east London, is another hybrid event. In May this year, bands such as the Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells performed across various venues, and art was exhibited. Clarisse D'Arcimoles won this year's Heart of Glass open-submission exhibition with her installation The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Watts.

More than anything, let's not forget that ultimately mixing up art and music can be an interesting concept, whether just for fun or for deeper reasons. The art world is often viewed by outsiders as an industry that takes itself very seriously and is lacking in mirth. The artist Patrick Brill, better known by his pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith, says, "The thing about the art world is that it's full of cliques. People are very uptight about being a professional artist and they wouldn't do something that was with graphics, or they wouldn't do something that was to do with illustration, and if they played in a band then somehow they'd look uncool. I think that's all nonsense. I think it's good if you're a creative person that you want to be creative in lots of different fields." A sentiment it's hard to argue with.



Martin Creed performs at Edel Assanti, London SW1 ( www.edelassanti.com) tonight

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders