Synesthesia may be one of the constants of Emil Schult’s long career as a musician, poet and painter. The exhibit, “Portrait of a Media Artist Pioneer,” opening with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, dives into the diverse audio and visual art Schult has developed throughout his career.
Born in Dusseldorf, Germany, Schult studied at his hometown art academy in the late 1960s. He is best known for his collaborations with the band Kraftwerk from 1972 to 1982. Schult most prominently contributed artwork, vocals and lyrics to a number of albums, including “The Model” off of the band’s seminal record “The Man-Machine.” He has continued to contribute in smaller ways to the influential electronic band, including providing visuals during its most recent tours.
According to a 2012 essay in Electronic Beats magazine, Schult explained that visuals were an important part of the creative process of the band, as it attempted to simulate or redesign sounds and instruments.
“You know, people tend to say an image is worth a thousand words, but music is even further along in that sense: when I play a series of notes in a certain order, then people immediately relate to it in some way – they have immediate associations. That’s why progression in music and art is strongly connected to human progress,” he wrote.
This bridging of visuals and sounds is what makes up one of the most interesting pieces in Schult’s upcoming exhibit, where he lets viewers hear some of Charles Burchfield’s paintings. Developed with students at the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University, where he has frequently lectured over the last three years, Schult and the students analyzed the singular rhythms of some select Burchfield paintings to re-create them as reverse glass paintings.
He created files for those paintings by using Photosounder software, which can capture an image and turn it into an audio file. In a video documenting the process and previewing the results with additional compositions, the buzzing and scratching of Burchfield’s “Insect Chorus” sounds about as brilliant and creepy as the swirling green, black and off-white painting of its source.
Schult also will display some of his reverse-glass portraits of famous electronic music practitioners like Robert Moog, John Cage and Clara Rockmore in the exhibit. Rounding out “Portrait of a Media Artist Pioneer” will be hand-cut prints of early computer chips and ceramic sound sculptures.
Coinciding with the exhibit’s opening is a four-day event called “Listen at the Center,” in which Schult will join other artists for performances from Thursday through Sunday in celebration of the work of composer Charles Ives. (See more info on Page 3.)
Schult will perform Saturday night with members of the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred interpreting some of Ives’ songs. He will be joined by Buffluxus, which will bring its improvised music and sound poetry performance talents to bear on the imagery of the current exhibit of Burchfield paintings, “A Resounding Roar,” performing their own act of synesthesia.
What: “Portrait of a Media Artist Pioneer” by Emil Schult
When: Opening reception is at 5:30 p.m. Friday; exhibit continues to Sept. 27
Where: Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.