Oliver Beer's Composition for Mouths (Songs My Mother Taught Me) I & II (2018) is exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery as part of British Art Show 9.
The work explores ideas of ‘inherited music’, creating intimate duets based on singers’ earliest musical memories. Pairs of vocalists join their lips in a tight seal, producing a shared mouth cavity. In this space their two voices interact and a ‘third voice’ appears. Their voices converge and their coupled songs – a hymn and an Aboriginal songline; an Indian raga and a 900-year-old melody by Hildegard of Bingen – create a percussive, throbbing effect.
Every five years, the British Art Show presents a panoramic view of contemporary art in the UK. Focusing on work made since 2015, British Art Show 9 reflects a precarious moment in Britain’s history. During this time politics of identity and nation, and concerns of social, racial and environmental justice have pervaded public consciousness. The artists presented here illuminate and respond in critical ways to this complex situation, imagining more hopeful futures and exploring new modes of resistance.
British Art Show 9 changes and adapts to each of its four host cities. The exhibition addresses three overarching themes: healing, care and reparative history; tactics for togetherness; and imagining new futures. The exhibition includes film, photography, painting, sculpture, and performance, as well as multimedia projects that don’t sit easily in any one category.