This Wednesday, The Arts Club welcomes Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher, whose collective art practice comprises Sonnenzimmer. Walking through the galleries at The Arts Club this season, one can experience the Centennial exhibition in two primary areas. In the West gallery, the club’s permanent collection has been installed. Usually at home in the salon on the second floor, surrounded by furniture, the highlights of a century’s worth of acquisitions are currently mounted to white walls in a gallery setting, where they have new life and context. In the East gallery, viewers will see The Arts Club Chicago at 100: A graphic timeline by Sonnenzimmer. On this exhibition, Executive Director Janine Mileaf had the following to say:
“Sonnenzimmer found an ingenious way to make the past into something new. We asked them to illustrate our history through a graphic timeline, and they ran with that idea, taking it to another level drawing on found imagery from our annual scrapbooks and their own inventive visual and aural vocabulary in a room-scale installation.”
Facing each other on opposite walls of opposite galleries, for example, are the original version and the grayscale printed version of Picasso’s 1922 Head of a Woman: one in the permanent collection, and one in Sonnenzimmer’s timeline as source material for an 8-color screenprint entitled Founding. In addition to Sonnenzimmer’s prints synthesizing the historical into new work, they made hand-printed graphic guides to the exhibition as well as a piece of sonic art titled “Enactment” on a take-away flexi-disc EP (with hand-printed packaging, of course) to complement their visual material.
On Wednesday, November 16th at 6pm, Nick and Nadine will perform one more act of synthesis in a public program at The Arts Club. They’ve described a speaker on a skateboard and simultaneous, interactive performances in two rooms.
Programs Manager Jenna Lyle interviewed Sonnenzimmer about the exhibition and their upcoming public performance.
JL: What exactly do you do, as Sonnenzimmer?
N&N: Sonnenzimmer began as a shared painting studio that morphed into a printshop that morphed into something in between a band, a graphic design studio, and philosophy club.
JL: You’re both invested in sonic as well as visual art. How do the two meet in your overall art practice?
N&N: Initially, we were being hired by musicians to design and print music packaging and posters. Over the course of our 10 years of collaboration, our personal interest in music slowly made its way into our artwork. We still balance commissioned projects like book design and murals with self-initiated projects such as performance, recordings, and exhibitions. But the longer we engage in art together, the closer our interests form a solidified intelligible shape and sound.
JL: How did the two converge in your exhibition at The Arts Club?
N&N: Our contribution to the The Arts Club of Chicago at 100, was initiated as a commissioned “graphic timeline” with lots of room for experimentation, thanks to Executive Director Janine Mileaf. Using the club’s extensive archive of historical ephemera, we collapsed images and conceptual overtones into a series of six prints, each representing a specific era of the club’s history. The exhibition culminates in a takeaway flexi record that pairs snippets of influential lectures form Gertrude Stein and Jean Dubuffet, set over a downtempo house beat, of course. For us, the sound is an aural continuation of the explorations in the visual component of the exhibit, with the added benefit of time and rhythm.
JL: What other convergences happen in that exhibition?
N&N: Past and present converge. Built from source material and our own idiosyncratic take on the Arts Club’s history, we hoped to shed new light on the dense past. We also ask just as many questions as we might have answered. So viewers’ own takes [on the art] converge with our expressive information graphics.
JL: How does your work for this season’s exhibition, The Arts Club at 100, deal with the passage of time?
N&N: We look at time as non-linear. Not circular, but maybe pear shaped. Things move far away from one another only to get closer again.
JL: For your upcoming performance at The Arts Club, how are you addressing the concept of time?
N&N: The performance will address both our exhibition and the permanent collection in the adjacent gallery through sound and locomotion moving between the two spaces.
Please join us on November 16th at the Arts Club of Chicago for the public presentation of “Enactment,” a performative audio intervention of our current exhibit, The Arts Club Chicago at 100: A graphic timeline by Sonnenzimmer. Pulling from the original music we created for the gallery takeaway, “Enactment” will evoke and challenge the Arts Club of Chicago’s 100 year history through adhoc sculpture and music.