Silence d’Or. Ilmar Laaban and Experiments in Sound and Language 04/09/2015 – 03/01/2016

Kumu Art Museum
Adult: Kumu Art Museum
  • Family: Kumu Art Museum
  • Discount: Kumu Art Museum
  • Adult ticket with donation: Art Museum of Estonia
Ilmar Laaban. 1985. Foto: Curt Lundberg

Silence d’Or. Ilmar Laaban and Experiments in Sound and Language

Location: 4th floor, B-wing

The exhibition provides one approach to a survey of artistic practices combining sound, language and text from the early 20th century until the present day. The diversity of the topic has provided creative subject matter through the decades to both experimental composers – John Cage and Udo Kasemets – and artists: Hugo Ball, Isidor Isou, Ilmar Laaban, Öyvind Fahlström, Jaan Malin, Roomet Jakapi and KIWA.

Sound poetry as a genre grew out of a wish to withdraw from the conventional language structures and traditional, semantic communications, and create a non-verbal form of communication and expression. The diverse possibilities of the human voice were implemented: utterances, exclamations, coughs, guttural sounds, made-up languages, mumbling etc.: in other words, everything that can be considered arbitrary in conventional language, but which plays an important role in the diversification of human relations. At the same time, non-verbal utterances also found their place in pop culture, for instance in jazz scat singing.

Starting with the Dadaists, there have been continual experiments conducted with language and sound-voice. Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters set an example for John Cage and the forerunners of the significant developments of the 1960s: a decade that marks the most productive early years of this creative practice. During this period, the Fylkingen artists’ association in Stockholm also got its start. They developed into international pioneers of sound poetry, and included Ilmar Laaban among their members. The festivals, publications and record releases organised by Fylkingen made Stockholm one of the important centres of sound poetry.

As a surrealist and poet, Ilmar Laaban was influenced by the work of the Dadaists and surrealists, as well as by experimental literature. Laaban was in contact with both Marcel Duchamp and André Breton, whose ideas are integrated into his diverse body of work. In Estonia today, Laaban’s legacy is being interpreted and carried on by Jaan Malin, with his continuing dynamic activity on the frontier between sound poetry and literature. In addition to the interpretation of classics, experiments with text and sound have now achieved a very wide scope, from large stage productions to intimate recitals and video poetry.

Tomomi Adachi, AGF aka Poemproducer, George Aperghis, Hugo Ball, Lucas Battich, John Cage, Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Marcel Duchamp, Öyvind Fahlström, Sten Hanson, Raoul Hausmann, Bernard Heidsieck, Ake Hodell, Richard Hülsenbeck, Takahiko iimura, Isidor Isou, Roomet Jakapi, Marcel Janco, Bengt Emil Johnson, James Joyce, Raivo Kelomees, Kiwa, Ilmar Laaban, Jaan Malin, Ladislav Novak, Robert Pohle ja Martin Hentze, Cia Rinne, Kurt Schwitters, Gertrude Stein, Tristan Tzara, Robert Wilson

Curator: Ragne Nukk
Exhibition design: Taavi Tulev
Graphic design: Kätlin Tischler
Sound desing and technical execution: Taavi Tulev, Ekke Västri


We thank:
Frédéric Acquaviva, Antione Spennato, Robert Wilson, Ruhrtriennale, Sharon Avery-Fahlström, Teddy Hultberg, Fylkingen



Silikaat AS, Video Data Bank