artists / researchers


Victor Burgin


2010 | Sound installation in the Sculpture Room of the Musée de Picardie

5 loudspeakers on shiny black stands | 3 sound tracks | 1'43”, 1'45” et 1'52”

Texts read in French by Nathalie Richard | translation Valérie Mavridorakis

production Suspended spaces and the Musée de Picardie

In response to the invitation to take part in the Suspended Spaces project, Victor Burgin has come up with an in situ sound installation in the Sculpture Room at the Musée de Picardie, which  holds some 40 19th century statues, both full-length figures and busts. Histories has been worked out by using as a base the visual ensemble represented by this gallery, and more specifically the sculpture Eurydice Dying by Nanteuil.

In one of the room’s aisles, Victor Burgin has aligned five loudspeakers, separating them by a regular interval of a few yards. These speakers are mounted on stands which put them at the visitors’ eye level, and they are painted with black paint which, like a mirror, reflects the sculptures surrounding them. Three texts, written by the artist and read by Nathalie Richard in a voice not much louder than a whisper, are broadcast in loops, all at the same time. So you have to get close to the loudspeakers and even lean in towards them in order to clearly hear the warm voice and the enigmatic texts. With the ear thus primed, the eye can then roam through the room and make up a circuit that is echoed by the texts being recited.

The same text is broadcast through the two speakers set at the two ends of the row of five, the second on the second and penultimate speakers, while the speaker in the middle broadcasts the third text.

In Victor Burgin’s imaginary reconstruction, these texts are fragments within inner monologues. The first text describes methods for excavating mass graves and links this installation to the general project of Suspended Spaces: in 2007, the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus started to exhume bones coming from bodies of Greek and Turkish Cypriots reported missing since the events of 1963-64 and 1974, which would be returned to their families. In describing the process in technical terms, this text makes a link between archaeology and art history; on this subject, the artist points out during his first visit to the museum how he was struck by the fact that this sculpture room reminded him of a cemetery. 

The second text is recited like an inner monologue: the woman thinks about her difficult and ambivalent relationship with a man from quite a different background to her own—another nationality, a linguistic, political, and generational  gap. Like a researcher rehearsing a lecture, the last text read out deals with nudes and the history of French sculpture in the 19th century.

These texts appear like fragments without any context—this lack of context prompts people to move about among the five loudspeakers and closely observe the room to find links and liaisons. Victor Burgin thus tries to bring into being in his viewers a fabric of associations of ideas, and each viewer works out his/her own interpretation based on the path (concrete and mental alike) they take. Symbolic representation, sensibility to immediate perception, and unconscious memories and reminiscences are all expressed, while the personal and contemporary ideas of the female reciter, evoking death, the past, love and a lost land, assume a dramatic and universal dimension, and find their echoes in the mythical presence of the neo-classical and romantic statues.

Charlène Dinhut - Françoise Parfait - Eric Valette

Translated by Simon Pleasance & Fronza Woods