West Coast artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller want people to be immersed in their art.
Lost in the Memory Palace, a collection of a seven of their installations to open Friday at the Art Gallery of Ontario, shows how they combine sound, images and numerous objects to create whole worlds in a small space.
Their most popular work, Forty Part Motet, is installed in the Henry Moore Sculpture gallery. The 40 speakers in the room deliver a complex choral arrangement of Spem in Alium, by 16th-century composer Thomas Tallis, that is very popular.
The work, which earned them the Millenium Prize in 2000, is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Canada and a huge draw as a touring piece.
In an interview with CBC News, Cardiff and Bures Miller, partners in life and art, discuss how they find the elements that go into their soundscapes. The couple split their time between rural B.C. and Berlin, and keep a couple of sheds where they collect speakers, toys, clocks, radios and other objects garnered from second-hand shops and junk heaps.
They also speak about their newest work, Experiment in F # Minor, specifically created for the AGO exhibit.
"We set this experiment for ourselves in that we could have 50 speakers, spare speakers and how do you make a piece of music or composition – not just music, there are sound effects – but how do you make a composition that goes together," Cardiff said..
The interactive exhibit involves multiple recordings in F# minor by numerous musicians and instruments and changes as people move around it.
"It’s not one true piece of music because it changes as the people walk around it," she added.
Born in Brussels, Ont., Cardiff leaped into public recognition in the mid-1990s with her audio walks, including Forest Walk for the Banff Centre, MOMA Walk for New York's Museum of Modern Art and Ghost Machine for the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin. She and Miller, who comes from Vegreville, Alta., collaborated on The Paradise Institute, a video and sound installation produced for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2001.
In 2012, they created a work for Luminato in Toronto, Ship of Fools.
They say their works often evolve as they take them from place to place, and see how art-lovers interact with them. But many in the works in the AGO exhibit are now at the point that they consider them "finished."
Lost in the Memory Palace is at the AGO in Toronto until Aug. 18.