In early 2013, some of the institutes of Copenhagen University are moving into new buildings. On this occasion, they invited four Danish artists to contribute to the interior design of the new spaces. Jacob Kirkegaard was commissioned to create a permanent art piece in the staircase of the building that houses the Department of Cross Cultural and Regional Studies. The department offers a broad interdisciplinary approach, with renowned experts from around the world teaching languages, literature and social studies, anthropology, archaeology and history of religions – with the aim of contributing to a better understanding of cultural and historical differences in a conflict-ridden globalized world.
For Kirkegaard's first permanent art piece in a public space, he decided to take the space itself as a starting point, both as a physical environment and in terms of its use and context. A staircase is a busy transitory space characterized by constant motion, noise, and exchange. Kirkegaard wanted this work to embrace, both physically and metaphorically, the immense diversity of languages and regions studied on the four floors of the building. Looking for a universal pattern or theme that would, at the same time, allow me to give a voice to the unique character of each one of the different cultures, he decided to focus on the fundamentally “human” habit of singing. To Kirkegaard's ears, LOVE SONGS are the most direct and personal expressions of (positive) feelings between human beings: affection, tenderness, longing, or communion. No matter where they are sung or by whom, love songs express an idea shared by all cultures and beliefs: love, a transcendental force that brings us together and keeps us alive. Associated with intense emotions but impossible to define, this force has inspired the most poetical and individual works of art in the different cultures.
Jacob Kirkegaard concept combines visual and acoustic elements that communicate and correspond with each other as well as with the people walking up and down the staircase.
Inside the open rectangular space in the middle of the staircase, connecting the four floors from bottom to ceiling, runs a 27 meter long vertical tube that houses 24 loudspeakers. Each speaker plays love songs from a specific language or culture studied at the institute. The sounds are played at a low volume and at irregular intervals: Triggered by a SuperCollider computer patch, they appear and reappear in a constantly changing, unpredictable pattern, frequently interrupted by silent phases as well as by field recordings from the different native regions of the songs.
The landings of the staircase are painted in different shades of grey, On each one of the four walls, halfway between one floor and the next, a neon sign spells LOVE in one of the major written cultures studied at the institute (Arabic, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Greek). Each sign represents a different region of the world – and thus a multitude of languages, traditions and songs. In an ironical reference to the cliché attached to the idea of love in all those cultures, the signs on the landings are made of thin neon tubes, and they light up in deep red whenever a love song is being played.
CONTRIBUTE WITH A SONG
Throughout the year of 2012 I met with professional and non-professional singers who were interested in representing their culture and their history in the context of this international project. This project would have been impossible without all the singers’ enthusiasm and trust in this project, and I am deeply thankful for everyone's contribution. It has been an amazing journey to meet everyone – sometimes friends but also many strangers – just for the purpose of singing and recording a love song. As of February 2013 I have collected more than 70 love songs in 22 different languages. All the songs are sung a capella: only one voice, male or female, but without any instruments.
Over the next years I will continue to collect love songs. If you would like to participate by contributing with a song, you're very welcome to do so. Here are some guidelines. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
I am looking for love songs
* that are more or less well-known in their country of origin (preferably traditional songs)
* that can be seen as characteristic for the culture in terms of melody/harmonies and lyrics
* that talk about love (or affection, friendship, worship etc.) in one way or the other.
You do not have to be a professional singer. I am looking for people who identify with what they are singing about, and who know how to sing it, too. The song should mean something to you, no matter if it is for a very personal reason or because you feel that this is the love song that best expresses your culture and identity.
Obviously, I would love to meet you in person to record you. Get in touch with me and we'll make an appointment. However, if we live too far apart and if you are equipped with a microphone you're welcome to make the recording and send it to me. Also, I am asking every participant to give me some basic information about the song, such as the name of the composer and a few sentences to explain the meaning of the lyrics. You can decide for yourself if you want to be credited by name or if you prefer to remain anonymous. I cannot pay anyone for their participation but I can offer to you to be a part of this artwork which is presented on a permanent day-to-day basis, to scholars and professors from all over the world. At the same time, it will serve as a unique archive of love songs from around the globe – an archive in which your culture and tradition will be represented by your voice.
* * * * *
♥ is produced by Jacob Kirkegaard on commission from Bygningsstyrelsen & Copenhagen University.
Idea & concept, love songs & field recordings, design of sound installation by Jacob Kirkegaard
Mads Büchert Eskildsen
Nisreen Stella Kanaan
Paulina Mikol Spiechowicz
Rama Yudha Prasetya
Zuzanna Friday Prikrylova