Art collective bringing “Great Noises” to Dundee

A radical and influential art collective renowned for making sounds from scrap metal is to host its first retrospective at the University of Dundee.

Members of the Bow Gamelan Ensemble will join students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design to perform new work to mark the opening of ‘Great Noises That Fill the Air’, a lookback on the group’s famous, large-scale works that established it at the forefront of the 1980’s audio-visual arts scene.

Ahead of the exhibition’s opening at the University’s Cooper Gallery on Friday 26 October, Principal Curator Sophia Hao said that the opening of V&A Dundee had undoubtedly helped in attracting artists of such renown to the city. 

“Bow Gamelan Ensemble were known for pushing boundaries with their work and their influence continues to resonate today,” she said. “Having performed all over the world, to host the first-ever retrospective here in Dundee is a massive coup for us and highlights the high esteem in which Duncan of Jordanstone is held within the arts community. It also accentuates the effect that V&A Dundee is having on the city’s ambition in becoming an international hub of culture by attracting high-profile artists to the city.”

First founded in 1983, Bow Gamelan Ensemble consisted of performance artist Anne Bean, sound artist Paul Burwell and sculptor Richard Wilson. During their eight years together, the trio’s experimental, cross-disciplinary performances were shown at festivals and galleries throughout the world. Since Burwell’s death in 2007, the surviving members have worked with his estate to preserve and organise the group’s extensive archive, culminating in this first retrospective.

Great Noises That Fill the Air promises to continue the Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s avant-garde approach to performance art, with sketches and photographs being joined by a soundtrack created by the ‘Thundersheet’, a newly-commissioned kinetic sound sculpture that will be activated by Bean and Wilson at Friday’s opening ceremony, performing alongside Duncan of Jordanstone students at the event.

“The exhibition showcases Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s interdisciplinary ethos, collaborating and improvising across music, sculpture and performance,” added Sophia. “To have the opportunity to work with such influential artists will be a memorable experience for our students.”

“We will also be hosting a number of public workshops and events throughout the exhibition’s run, including film screenings, oral poetry workshops, a listening evening and a symposium, giving members of the public and local community groups the opportunity to participate.”

Great Noises That Fill the Air runs from the evening of Friday 26 October until Saturday 15 December in Cooper Gallery, within Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. All events are free to attend and are open to all.