Herzschwingen – Tension of Human Life – The Heartbeat and Myocardial Contraction

EN /  „Herzschwingen“ –
„Tension of Human Life“ –
The Heartbeat and Myocardial Contraction

The impulse of the heart as a manifestation of energy;

Tension / relaxation as a manifestation of energy
Rituals / play as a manifestation of energy
Rules / breaking of rules as a manifestation of energy
Laws / freedom as a manifestation of energy

“I want you to have a confrontation with something that is real – Heartbeat.”

Curated by Maria Hinze,
Special thanks to Milford Graves,
Source: Telephone conversations Graves / Hinze 2019

The interdisciplinary exhibition “Tension of Human Life” presents work by a number of multimedia artists, with the human heartbeat as the essence of their pieces, performances or music. Several of the exhibited pieces can be seen internationally for the first time, such as the dance performance by Kimberly de Jong and Jason Sharp “The Day The Wild Cried”. The project is inspired by the New York-based artist Milford Graves. Graves brings together physiological processes and music. The tension of life is something Graves sporadically commits to rhythms, which themselves are in constant dialogue with the tempo of life’s movements. As such, music is born, which adapts to the rhythm of humans, transforming itself again and again.

The project “Tension of Human Life – The Heartbeat and Myocardial Contraction” brings together artists from Montreal and Berlin in the context of musical performance and scientific medicine. As part of an artistic and inter-disciplinary exchange, various work is developed at the Meinblau project space around the theme of the heartbeat. Experimental music and dance, in combination with visual art, enter into dialogue with the results of echocardiography as a medical practice – with the aim of interpreting the heartbeat as a fundamental rhythm in a variety of ways.

The participating artists bring together four elements: Flow, velocity, tempo and rhythm. The project creates a sphere, in which different forms of artistic expression and medical techniques and methods for examining the heart combine with artistic thought. Within this space the artists illuminate the interdependence between varying media, revealing the way in which rhythm and pulse exist continually in both humans and animals, and manifesting these as audio and visual experiences with the aid of technology. Music and art are forms of feedback, simultaneously providing various methods of working with the heartbeat from differing perspectives.



Kimberley de Jong, Jason Sharp, Laura Fong Prosper

The dance piece “The Day The Wild Cried” explores the point of intersection between the heartbeat, awareness of the physical body, a denatured environment and progressive sound technology. Beyond this, the work represents the dangers of climate change by traversing the limits of sound, space and the body in an installation of trash. As such, this dance piece thematically references the exhibited work of Berlin-based artist Laura Fong Prosper. Laura Fong’s new quadruple mono-channel video installation shows different animals, whose species are threatened by extinction. The individual frequencies are layered, abstracted and compressed together with the sound of pulsing heartbeats to create an audio-visual collage of moving images. Laura Fong works with analogue video synthesizers and produces moving images on old television sets. Her TV installation serves to document the current reality of our ecosystem, as a wake-up call and warning for future generations, not to lose touch with the heartbeat of our planet.

Laura Fong Prosper’s monitors are positioned on a second level above the heads of those entering the exhibition space and above the dancer Kimberley de Jong and musician Jason Sharp. With “The Day The Wild Cried” the artists collectively show a world ever more dependent on technology and question what ultimately remains of organic elements in their purest form. Jason Sharp instrumentalizes Kimberly de Jong’s heartbeat through an electronic heart monitor, providing a musical sequence, which allows organic elements (heart sounds and organ noises) to blend and blur with inorganic elements (sound technology). Kimberley de Jong describes the conception of her work and the way, in which her own heartbeat dictates the rhythm and choreography of this dance piece as follows.

“My approach to musical movement has evolved. I am now far more aware of that, which is intentional in the execution of movement, both on and off the beat. The element of real-time is essential for my work and the collaboration with live music is therefore very important for this piece. I am fascinated by the parallels between music and dance, and how we literally create rhythm with our heartbeat.” (Telephone conversation between de Jong / Hinze 2019). The relationship between new sound technology, an installation of old cans and raw physicality answers this question not with a riposte but rather an abstraction representation – resulting in an eerie ambiguity as to where we are headed in an ecological and evolutionary sense.


Nick Kuepfer, Gambletron + Johnny Nawracaj, Markus Krieger, Philippe Leonard

Following on from his previous invitation to “Tokyo Morandi” at Meinblau in 2018 and recording the beating wings of countless baby bats in a cave in South Argentina at dusk, Nick Kuepfer once again expands the scope of collaboration with his contribution in the context of the current exhibition. Kuepfer’s new work is based on the attempt to document the beating wings of the partridge. The extremely low frequency, which is produced by the beating wings, allows the birds to hear one another over great distances and to communicate thusly. Focusing on the concept of the heart and Nick Kuepfer’s interpretation of the far-reaching effect of sound and music on human health, the sound of the beating wings should be physically registered by the approaching receiver – albeit that the sound is almost inaudible within the spectrum of human hearing. In the wild, the sound can only be heard in late Spring and it is a mating call with an extremely low frequency, which can travel very long distances. Every year, Nick Kuepfer tries to capture this sound although it has eluded him to date. Speaking on this theme, he notes, “I have always associated this sound with the heartbeat because it is very similar to the sound or the physical feeling when sprinting and then coming to a stop. You can hear or feel your heartbeat with your own ears. The call of the partridge evokes a similar sound and emotion over a great distance.” Heard from a distance, the sound of the partridge’s beating wings creates a feeling comparable to that, which one can also sense when viewing Nick Kuepfer’s photo work “Matacaballos”. The piece shows a landscape in South Argentina with a large number of bushes that are covered in bees. The imagined sound of these innumerable bees buzzing evokes the physical power of imagination and feeling, although it remains a product of our imagination.

Gambletron & Johnny Nawracaj locate their work within the exhibition’s theme of rhythmic, embodied sound through the recorded footsteps of a return to their ancestral southern Polish landscape where the ruins of a synagogue built in 1786 stand unmarked in the small southern Polish town of Tarłów. Rabbi Yehudah Yudel Rosenberg (1859-1935), Gambletron’s ancestor led the congregation at this site from 1885 to 1890. 
In a video and sound work augmenting documentation of their site visit to this site. The word “here,” written in Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, and German floats over the documentation footage along with abstracted renderings of stones that remain in the Synagogue’s walls. Tentatively mirroring the building’s floorplan, the words gesture towards translingual lineage and generational place-making, and the Diasporist Jewish concept of דאָיִקייט doikayt or ‚hereness.‘ This concept signals Jewish cultural autonomy wherever Jewish communities or individuals exist, decrying the colonial maintenance of a theocratic ethnostate through the violent occupation of Palestine. This holds deep significance for the artists who, as a nonbinary, queer, Ashkenazi-Slavic couple, locate their ancestral homeland in Poland.

Philippe Leonard also presents emotionally moving works. In this case, two of his “Rubriques Necrologiques” obituaries are glued onto wooden boards in the streets of Nardo, a village in southern Italy. Each layer interacts with the others and is transformed over time by the wind and rain, creating a palimpsest of letters and textures, reminiscent of lives lived, material absorbing into itself. A process seemingly mapping the souls of those departed.


Maria Hinze, Ennio Moya, Camilla Richter, Franziska Lutze

Humans can only exist as long as their hearts continue to beat but where does the heart get its power? Whether initiated by the mitochondria or the pulse of the mother, the heart begins to beat and energy is transferred. The first cells begin to contract within days of being produced, before quickly detaching from the mother’s heartbeat. On a fundamental level, new life begins to develop its own pulse just a matter of days after its conception and very rapidly detaches from the rhythm of the mother. The heart begins to beat and circulate its energy from this point on. This developing life exists as a newly formed individual when the heart starts to beat and before other organs are formed. From this point on the pulsing heartbeat is regulated by the sinus node, which transmits electrical impulses via the heart’s own nervous system. It adapts to stimuli both inside and outside the body, contracting and expanding. Maria Hinze and Ennio Moya present an installation on the theme of birth. “Blutmond” by Franziska Lutze was developed especially for the exhibition, entering into dialogue with the other pieces of work and their varying artistic expressions. Camilla Richter enters into a formal thematic dialogue with her various glass objects.


Nele Brönner, Paul Gregor, Judith Rudolf, Alisa Resnik, Philippe Leonard

Nervousness, fainting, paleness and even death can be caused by the heart. A heart-related reddening of the face can accompany a moment of embarrassment but also those of excitement or tension. The heart can provide itself and the rest of the body with blood and essential nutrients through a process of rhythmic contraction. It is capable of releasing an enormous flow of energy. A pulsating heart is the guarantee for life. A heart that no longer beats as it should does not go unnoticed for long. Tachycardia can quickly lead to acute heart failure and a loss of consciousness. A heart that constantly beats too hard destroys itself through hypertrophy. A heart that constantly beats too fast leads to reduced cardiac capacity or even complete heart failure. Although the brain is not capable of harming the heart, the heart can severely impair the brain – as is the case proven by heart failure, which can lead to inevitable brain death. Cardiac fibrillation can lead to the formation of embolisms in all arterial blood vessels. If these should find their way into the brain they can often lead to life-threatening strokes and subsequent disabilities. When the heart beats too hard for a number of years, there is a danger that practically irreversible vascular dementia can lead to a cognitive decline and one’s mind can waste away. These ideas influence the work of Brönner, Gregor and Rudolf. Nele Brönner presents a monochromatic ink drawing. Her poem “Das Licht” (The Light) is inspired by morning light as a metaphor for a supernova. Philippe Leonard exhibits “Fleurs d’automne *2”, following on from his work “Fleurs d’autnome”, which was exhibited at Meinblau in 2018. Leonard once again selects some 2-meter-high, dried sunflowers as his material and thematic point of departure. A material that over the last two years has come to embody the pain and fear of chemotherapy and its effects on the motherland. The body as flowers, the mind as landscape. A heightened sense of awareness through time-lapse techniques allows fleeting moments to be perceived in their entirety, while the heartbeat quickens and one’s perception expands. “Fleurs d’autonome *2” documents a ritual, in which the accumulated experiences and memories are liberated by fire, ash and wind, returning to their source.


Aidan Girt, Maria Hinze, Kevin Doria, Christian Söder, Mike Moya, Eric Craven

Drummer Aidan Girt and guitarist Mike Moya from the Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor participate in this project, which together with Maria Hinze and band members Kevin Dora and Eric Craven interprets the idea of the heartbeat in the expanded context of medicine. Aidan Girt develops a musical composition, which is based on the recorded ultrasound of Maria Hinze’s echocardiogram. The results of this collaboration are collages of sound and drawings. Together with Christian Söder they record Maria Hinze’s heartbeat and, through a process of feedback, are able to create a visual counterpart with different sound versions. The visual inspiration is achieved through rhythm, pulse and the inner mapping of the human circulatory system interrelated with a wall drawing by Maria Hinze. As part of this collaboration, Eric Craven presents a piece of audio, which intertwines the slowed-down sound of a passing train with Hinze’s echocardiogram. In addition to various sources of urban sounds and noise, Craven also works with layered drums, which enter into dialogue with the exhibition’s central theme of the heart and his own field recordings. Just as the rhythm and choreography of Kimberley de Jong’s piece is based on her own heartbeat, the Meinblau gallery space is adorned with a new skin through Hinze’s drawing, while the space itself also takes on a heartbeat of its own with her pulse. The project’s fundamental thematics are addressed in echocardiograms, wall drawings and live improvisations.


The critical approach to live music is one of the main focuses of the exhibition, just as the act of heightened perception and the parallels between music and dance, as well as the question of how rhythms can be forged from the fundament of the heartbeat. The exhibition explores the heartbeat through various methods of feedback, for example, Jason Sharp’s electronic heart monitor, which allows for the merging of both organic and inorganic elements. The project sees members of the music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, such as drummer Aidan Girt and guitarist Mike Moya, as well as filmmaker Philippe Leonard and musician Kevin Doria, explore new artistic territory. The band Godspeed You! Black Emperor holds a prominent position within the canon of music history. Since the 90s they have been an integral part of the global experimental music scene, exerting a defining influence on post-rock, as well as the most diverse fields of avant-garde music and experimental art. Beyond these broadest of reaches they have also influenced several generations of music lovers. Many of the Canadian artists took part in the 2018 project “Tokyo Morandi” and are present at the exhibition on 7th March 2020. They have also brought new artists with them: Jason Sharp, Aidan Girt, Kevin Doria, Eric Craven and the Berlin-based photographer Alisa Resnik.

Nick Kuepfer returns to his German roots. His understanding of his descent and the German origins of his surname Kuepfer can be traced back to two brothers, who immigrated to Canada in the 1800s. As Mennonites of the old order, they rejected the war of the Napoleonic army, to which they would have been called up, for religious reasons. Later they settled in the South West of Ontario where a predominantly Mennonite population exists to this day, including many who still speak the German language. Nick Kuepfer’s sound installation is heavily inspired by traversing through history, time, landscape and music. Through the act of leaving, settling and returning, he reveals a circle of life itself that is defined by transience and a state of constant change. Kimberly de Jong also traces her own past. Her father was of Dutch descent, while she is rooted in North America and Europe. She too symbolically follows the path of her heart to the premiere of her dance performance in Berlin.


Graves has found a very personal way of taking the human heartbeat as inspiration and interweaving this with his observations on life. Heartbeat is for him reality, the real, genuineness, which keeps humans alive and defines his life. Three fundamental principles permeate Grave’s work and the works of the exhibiting artists; the freedom of thought, the freedom of spirit and the freedom of sound. Unity transcends the borders of music and in doing so it opens up new perspectives on the concept of freedom. The point is to appreciate the fundamental energy that is prevalent in the exhibited works and performances via the electricity of the body, as a process that moves the heart, switching states back and forth between tension and relaxation. According to Graves, every single activity is a harmony of the same thing. His work references the rhythms of movement, energy and sound to accompany growth and change.


Kuepfer’s first-hand experiences within the context of the “Tokyo Morandi” exhibition in Meinblau in 2018, his hitherto latest involvement in a project, made it possible for him to contribute to a new exhibition in a new constellation in 2020. Previous experiences lead to new experiences and that is a central idea, which recurs again and again throughout the work in this exhibition; the idea of tension between identification and exclusion, tension between rules and the breaking thereof, tension between ritual and play, tension between laws and freedom – the idea of considering the impulse of the heart as a manifestation of energy. This facilitated the critical approach to and questioning of the conditions of this tension. The most disparate manifestations of conventional dichotomies can be understood, through the concept of energy, as something connected to both itself and others. Energy as a common denominator connects all opposing forces and illuminates the undeniable dependency between them.


The exhibition is inspired by Christian Boltanski’s work “Archiv des Herzens” (Archive of the Heart). Remarkably, Boltanski exhibited an installation entitled “Le Coeur” some ten years ago in the cellar vaults of the Pfefferberg, where the Meinblau project space is located. With the help of an amplifier, visitors to the exhibition could hear the sound of the artist’s heart, which was accompanied by a light in the cellar vault that would switch on and off in time with Boltanski’s beating heart. It was a piece of work that was liberated through an act of abstraction, in which the observer became emotionally invested, while its single aim remained rooted in potentiality itself. Speaking of the piece Boltanski says, “The heart is somebody. This is something that I have been concerning myself with for years now: The singularity of every being. Every being is singular and therefore extremely important, yet at the same time extremely vulnerable and delicate. It has to do with the opposition of meaning and fragility. I think it is really important to know, who you are and listening to the heart is an opportunity to know, who you are.” (Source: Christian Boltanski’s „Archiv des Herzens“, Kathrin Hondl, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 15.09.2008 / Melanie Franke, Ausstellung Herzschlag Pfefferberg, www.vonhundert.de, November 2007)


A human can only exist because their heart beats. This is the point of departure for the exhibition at Meinblau, which attempts to map this collaborative project. The artists familiarize themselves with old and new methods of examining and analysing the variations and contractions in the sound, visualisation and abstraction of the overarching concept both on, as well as off, the beat of the heart.

Text: Maria Hinze

Translation: Pete Littlewood