Derek Shiel, an Irish artist and writer, was the Collection’s first artist-in-residence. He worked closely with musicians, music educators, a storyteller, puppets and an animateur on a series of interactive workshop sessions around his exhibition of sound sculptures.
Shiel explored the interface between sculpture and sound and was one of the few artists who had a direct relationship with the ideas of Luigi Russolo, Futurist painter, musician, composer and author of the 1913 manifesto ‘The Art of Noises’. It was in Milan between 1909 and 1914 that Russolo invented a radical new music based on sound rather than conventional harmonies. In collaboration with percussionist Ugo Piatti, Russolo expressed sounds associated with nature and industrial technology by inventing ‘noise machines’ through which bangs, thunderclaps, cracklings and even the croaking of frogs took on musical form.
The early prototypes for Shiel’s sculptures came into being in the mid-1980s after he found and recycled scrap metal from his family’s electrical distribution business in Dublin. Brackets, hinges, flatirons, cogwheels and central heating pipes were beaten, scraped and silvered to bring out their visual and percussive possibilities and to create ‘families of sound’. Sampled and played by a variety of contemporary composers, Shiel’s sculptures extend our knowledge of the sound world, as much as Russolo’s experiments did eighty years ago.