HDK_TUNE_keyiaA_Dawuna_performance_2023 © Tanja Kernweiss

Wir sprachen mit der Kuratorin Sarah Miles

What is TUNE and how did the idea come about?

Sarah Miles: Tune is a monthly programme where I invite musicians to give two performances and take part in an artist talk. They are given the opportunity to make new site-specific works, and sometimes if they work with other media such as films, we programme screenings. The idea is to take them out of their normal touring schedules and give them the space to do something unique and give the audience the chance to dive deeply into their practice. For independent musicians, constant touring is often their main or only source of income, and I think it’s important to give them the opportunity to put more time into a single gig and have the space to try new things in their practice.

Is TUNE an independent series of events, separate from the general exhibition program, or does it correspond to the current exhibitions?

Sarah Miles: TUNE is its own series, and it’s very much connected to the general exhibition programme. When I curate, I research the artists who will have exhibitions at the museum deeply and I think about the ideas and themes that run throughout the museum’s programme. I think about artists who connect to these ideas sonically and in other ways. Sound can often be an afterthought at art institutions. And there are also musicians who have not in the past been framed as ‘sound artists,’ but who in fact have just as much depth and cultural importance as those who have been given the stamp of approval by the art world.

HDK_240126_TUNE_01_Arkbro &Pal_Photo © Constanza Melendez

What goals are you pursuing with TUNE and who would you like to reach with it?

Sarah Miles: I’d like to reach anyone who is interested! The programme is broad and varied, it spans generations, genres, and scenes. It’s not supposed to be for one group of people – it’s for anyone who is interested in learning more about artists working with sound and for thinking about it in different ways, and those who are open to new experiences. Performances are always more memorable when there is a healthy mix in the crowd. For example, someone may have had a lifelong interest in the canon of avantgarde music but has not closely followed developments in underground music, and vice versa.

What role does sound play in art?

Sarah Miles: Sound often plays a role in supporting other mediums, whether it is a soundtrack for a film, performance, or installation. Often sound doesn’t receive the care of other mediums between the echoing white walls of a gallery or museum. Sound can be crucial to the reception of a given work, but it’s often in very subtle ways that impact the viewer/listener subconsciously.

HDK_TUNE_Katalin_Ladik_Performance_230715_Foto © Franz Kimmel

Do you receive applications for TUNE or what criteria do you use to search for and find your artists?

Sarah Miles: I travel often to music festivals around Europe and speak with a wide network of artists around the world. As a co-founder of Berlin Community Radio, I was exposed to many emerging artists and have had the privilege to watch their work develop over the years. In my role at HDK, I see it as a way of offering an interesting opportunity to an artist at a point in their development where it might be inspiring to try something new, to have the luxury of experimentation.

Do you set specific tasks or are the artists completely free in their program & performance?

Sarah Miles: The programme comes together through an organic process where I talk with the artists and find out what they are working on. Sometimes I commission new pieces such as Nkisi’s |Ngo| which opened the Tune series in 2021, or Beatrice Dillon ‘Impossible Ideal Angle’ (2022). Other times, such as with Jim C. Nedd, who is an Italo-Colombian musician and photographer, and whose work I will present in April, the programme has developed and evolved in collaboration. What started as two evenings of music performances will now include a live poetry reading by Flor Barcenas Feria, a spoken word performance by Beatriz E. Balanta, and an installation of three films, with newly composed sound works, in the West Galley of Haus der Kunst during the weekend he is with us (26th& 27th April).

HDK_230421_TUNE_Phew_Photo © Tanja Kernweiss

Are the sound residencies snapshots, unique listening and viewing experiences or how are they preserved and kept for the museum's collection?

Sarah Miles: They are live moments that you have to catch! This is one thing that’s special for me about music and sound, it is an ephemeral experience, which is different every time and it’s about being in the space in that moment with everyone and sharing it.

Having said that, we do record all of the performances, and on occasion, artists have released the recordings, as Chuiquimamani-Condori and Joshua Chiquimia-Condori did in 2021.

Also, Lamin Fofana, the first artist to make the Terrace Hall commission, which I haven’t mentioned yet, afterward released three new albums and a lot of the source material for these releases came out of the installation. The Terrace Hall commission is a sound work that is installed in the Terrace Hall for 6-9 months and it is also part of Tune. It’s the one permanent presence of the programme in the building. Excerpts of the installation are also used to frame Haus der Kunst’s content online, so the artist’s work in effect becomes the sound of the museum.

In recent years, your museum's program has repeatedly included exhibitions that, in addition to art, also addressed the senses, challenged them, and invited them to participate. Do we expect this kind of cross-genre thinking and work in a house for contemporary art today or are you constantly confronted with the clichéd question "Is this art?"?

Sarah Miles: I think that with music there is maybe a freedom from this discursive mode sometimes because there is an immediacy to it. Perhaps it has to do less work to justify itself.

There is a museum for light art in Unna and a house for electronic art in Basel, the HEK. Isn't a museum for sound art long overdue?

Sarah Miles: Though I would happily spend hours in such a museum, I don’t personally think this kind of separation is always necessary. Since Andrea Lissoni started at the museum, many of the shows have included different expressions in different mediums alongside one another, and this is how I enjoy experiencing art. I sometimes find labels, like genre titles, limiting. And many artists mainly known for their work with sound and music also work with film, language, sculpture, performance, and other mediums.