Non Consumiamo ... (to Luigi Nono)

The opening of the Biennale Arte in Venice in 1968 was the occasion for numerous protests. Groups of students held demonstrations both on St Mark’s Square and in the Giardini pavilions, and were joined by Massimo Cacciari, Emilio Vedova, Carlo Scarpa and Luigi Nono. One year later, Nono published his two-part composition Musica - Manifesto No. 1: Un volto, e del mare / Non consumiamo Marx for voice and magnetic tape. In this work, documentary and edited recordings of the protests and the sounds of the sea entered into dialogue with the human voice. Nono composed the “libretto” as a collage of passages from Cesare Pavese’s poems, of wall writings seen in the streets of Paris, and of voices which he randomly recorded live during the demonstrations. Crucial to Nono’s attempts to develop a critical and political statement by means of music was not only this innovative text-montage but also the use of new media. Magnetic tapes holding sound recordings could be more easily deployed at a variety of locations than an orchestra. In addition, he saw this straightforward and flexible possibility of performance as a clear stance against an art business that was concerned primarily with itself and was acting increasingly as a distinct and sequestered world unto itself. It was above all, however, in his treatment of the body, the voice and their material, physical and tonal presence that Nono increasingly radicalized his theses on the political relevance of sound up to the very verge of silence. On the one hand, the texts are bearers of often explicitly formulated content; on the other hand, however, their linguistic articulation in performance emerges increasingly as a source of sound or breathing.

The multi-part performance Non consumiamo … (to Luigi Nono) is inspired by Luigi Nono’s handling of texts, as delineated above, by his reference to a specific political situation and to everyday life, and also by his use of technological media as components of musical composition. The point de départ of the performance is the staged reading of Karl Marx’s Capital, which forms the focal point of the Biennale Arte 2015 and takes place over its entire timespan in the ARENA – an active space dedicated to continuous live programming. Non consumiamo … is a reference to this reading and will unfold and transfigure itself over the Biennale’s seven-month duration. Its starting and finishing points will be live performances conducted at the opening and closing events of the Biennale.

Eight singers have been invited to develop brief, songlike interventions every four or five days. During the course of the Biennale they perform these – no matter where they happen to be at the time – and transmit them live to the site of the reading in Venice. These improvised interventions take place within a manifold framework of instructions: alongside a regular set of musical structures, which have been fixed in agreement with the singers on the basis of an analysis of Nono’s musical language, there will be each month a text arrangement created for the singers’ “inner ear” (Nono), the material for which is taken from passages from Marx’s Capital, together with a compilation of texts ranging from political statements to poems. This “libretto” is interpreted by each singer separately, the singers themselves deciding individually where their performances take place and to what extent they take their specific situation on the spot as a constituent part of their song.

This performance can not only be heard live in the ARENA, where the reading of Capital takes place, but is also transmitted to a transportable set of equipment packed in backpacks, which can be borrowed from the ARENA. These backpacks have four sound channels: On two of the channels the songs composed to date, and on each of the other two an internet radio news channel. Anyone wearing one of the backpacks can, since they are also equipped with a speaker system, replay, control and mix these four channels while strolling through the exhibition.

The title of Nono’s piece was the quotation of a slogan used by the Paris students. “Ne consommons pas Marx!” (“Let’s not consume Marx!”) rejects consumption as the passive acceptance of the given. In a text from his studies on Capital Marx points to a further implication of consumption: articulating new needs and effecting a change in production. In Non consumiamo …, where exhibition-goers can themselves become “composers” of sound pieces, this aspect of consumption can be experienced and hence questioned and debated. The lacuna marked by the three dots “...” is, like silence in music, not so much an end point as a tipping point. It is also a technical sign – for a cut, a re-combination, a negotiation, a vagabondism of thoughts in sound.


May 9th – November 22nd, 2015
Central Pavilion at the Giardini, Venice
During the whole period once a week a new song will be transmitted live to the ARENA.

Live Performances in the ARENA: Opening week (May 5th – 9th) and Finissage (November 21st – 22nd)
In addition, there will be spontaneous, unannounced performances.

Andreas Fischer (Bass), Noa Frenkel (Contralto), Daniel Gloger (Countertenor), Susanne Leitz-Lorey (Soprano), Natasha López (Soprano), Angelika Luz (Soprano), Truike van der Poel (Mezzosoprano), Pascal Zurek (Bass Baritone)

Commissioned by the 56th International Art Exhibition:
All the World’s Futures
Curated by Okwui Enwezor

© Olaf Nicolai, 2015