Curated by Maayan Sheleff
The exhibition Preaching to the Choir presents projects from the past decade by artists who worked with choirs in political and social contexts. Through a collaborative artistic process involving singers, musicians, writers, and activists, the artists examine and deconstruct ethnic and cultural pre-conceptions as well as perceptions of nationality. The process fuses local musical and textual traditions with contemporary texts, some extracted directly from the political sphere. The political function of singing is explored via juxtaposition of the traditional and the contemporary - from religious ceremonies in which a leader guides a group with his voice, through traditions of polyphonic choirs in which different voices join together to create a new sound ensemble, to choirs that sing texts from demonstrations, legislative documents, and economic blogs. The works in the show look at the representation of the individual as opposed to perceptions of the collective, considering historical and current political structures. Some of them attest to the transformation of socialist concepts following the collapse of the Communist bloc and the disillusionment with the utopian view of cooperative life. Others reflect the current crisis of Western capitalism, which extols individuality, but in view of the uncontrollable expansion of globalism and the growing economic gaps, in fact flattens and tramples the individual and individuality. The artists' work with choirs is, essentially, work with communities which may be ascribed to the genre of participatory artworks. The artists furnish an artistic platform that spawns a joint narrative through the combination of different voices. This is not, however, a utopian or harmonious experience, but rather a negotiation of differences that reflects the difficulty in creating a solidary community unanimous with regard to its goals. The artists address their process reflexively, externalizing their role as outside onlookers, as participants, or as disruptive foreigners. The works convey the dual potential at the choir's core: on the one hand, it reflects the luring power innate to a manifestation of uniformity; on the other hand, it enables imagining a new, more democratic political system. Like performative demonstrations that echo the protest movements of recent years, the choirs seek a common denominator without waiving difference.