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Jorinde Voigt in Switching Views - Jorinde Voigt and the allegory of music at Dresden State Art Collections

Carl Gustav Carus, Allegory of Music (Harp in the Moonlight), 1852–1860. Jorinde Voigt, PERM Partitur (detail), 2007, ink and graphite on paper, Donation Hoffmann Collection
© Kupferstich-Kabinett, SKD, Foto: Estel/Klut

Jorinde Voigt and the allegory of music

Music and fine arts have the power to express feelings about our shared human experience, and yet Jorinde Voigt’s drawing is at first glance difficult to decipher: Abstract relationships between very different components come together in a kind of diagram that feels at once monumental and fragile. Carl Gustav Carus also shows us a mysterious scene: In tranquil solitude, a harp stands in a Mediterranean landscape; there is nothing to suggest that a concert might soon take place. Rather, it seems that a strange silence lies in the air. Moonlight shines through the harp’s strings, conveying thereby that the instrument is not to be played, but is instead a purely symbolic element.

Common to both works is the attempt to visualise acoustic phenomena in a visual medium. In the mid-19th century, the relationship between music and the fine arts underwent a redefinition and it seemed that the boundaries between the different arts were becoming less distinct. In painting, the inner world of emotions came to the fore, eclipsing the significance of the depicted objects. The painters of the period, prominently among them Carl Gustav Carus, often put this notion on the canvas using musical allegories: Music, with its fleeting, immaterial nature and its expression of inner poetry, was perhaps the art form that corresponded most closely to the Romantic ideal.

In the work of Jorinde Voigt as well, musical references are not coincidental: She is a classically trained musician and weaves dynamic impulses, bars from pop songs, two kissing figures, detonations, a temperature profile and a time line into a mysterious score. The depicted elements follow a rhythm while never becoming entirely tangible, thus recalling fleeting perceptions of sound and music. The diagram constructs its very own reality. If we were to play, for example, the bars from the pop songs as notated, we would hear only noise: The musical score is of limited use. The point is rather to probe perception as such: How can music be expressed graphically even in the absence of musical notation? How can sounds be experienced visually? How can acoustic and visual experiences be brought together?

The Schenkung Sammlung Hoffmann enters contemporary works into a dialogue with objects from the various museums of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, thus opening up new perspectives and levels of meaning for both the contemporary and the historical exhibits.