Image: Oliver Beer at the Sydney Biennale

Oliver Beer at the Sydney Biennale

16 March—11 June 2018
Sydney Opera House

As part of the Sydney Biennale, Oliver Beer will present two new works: a new film and a major performance work engaging with the iconic architecture of the Sydney Opera House for which, in November 2017, he became the inaugural artist in residence.

During his residency at the Sydney Opera House, Oliver Beer was invited to explore the iconic building and listen for the resonant potential of different locations within the structure. He took singers into its farthest extremities; from the confined concrete spaces inside the tips of the  roof sails, to a deep corridor four stories below sea level, which he describes as having the acoustic of a cathedral. ‘Tuning’ the building as he went, whilst recording and filming, the artist built up a body of work around the unique acoustic fingerprint of the architecture. 

The site of the Sydney Opera House has a complicated and layered political and cultural history as wells as its own specific harmonies which remain unchanged since the day the building was completed. Revealing the resonant frequencies of the space, Beer's work is an immersive sound composition.

For the Biennale of Sydney Beer presents a new iteration of his Composition for Tuning an Architectural Space, in which a usually unseen, unremarkable space within the Opera House will be transformed acoustically through a live vocal performance. This site-specific piece expands upon Beer’s exploration of architecture as musical instrument, which is known as the Resonance Project (2007-Present), a series of performances and films based on an acoustic phenomenon: that every architectural space has its own unchanging resonant notes, determined by its dimensions, which can be stimulated using the un-amplified human voice. 

'The new performance exists at the meeting point between the site and the singers – it’s a duet between their bodies and the building.' The architecture’s unchanging acoustic fingerprint is activated by the singers, whose own musical identity informs composition. The music they bring is ephemeral and inextricably linked to the cultural and social makeup of the city. 


Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I & II, 2018 will be exhibited for the Biennale of Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. These two films feature singers joining their lips in a tight seal to create a single mouth cavity and exploring the resonant frequencies of each other’s faces and the architecture of the Opera House. Fusing their voices to create rhythmic microtonal harmonic interactions known as ‘beats’, they sing a composition in which Beer adapts forms of their earliest remembered music from their childhoods.

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