Music icon Meredith Monk in the 700-year-old ‘Oude Kerk’ Amsterdam

Meredith Monk: Calling

Already for 5 decades Meredith Monk is pushing the boundaries of of vocal music with her highly unique approach to the exploration of the human voice. The 700-year-old Oude Kerk in Amsterdam inspired Meredith Monk to create a multi-dimensional journey that blurs the lines between visual art, music and performance. 

Music icon Meredith Monk in the 700-year-old ‘Oude Kerk’ Amsterdam

An iconic retrospective

Meredith Monk is a true music legend, having dedicated her entire career to exploring the possibilities of the voice and the expressiveness of that human instrument. Knowing Meredith Monk mainly through her sound singing, often described as ancient and contemporary at the same time, the theatre performances and films were a big unknown. You think you know Monk’s art, realising not to know. When you enter the exhibition it is not difficult to see that her work with voice, music, staged performances, and film found a natural home in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building and nowadays a venue for contemporary art too. What makes the exhibition interesting as well is the fact that Meredith looks back on almost 6 decades of work. She takes us on a tour along the century old walls via immersive video and sound installations and smaller archive presentations of scores, drawings and objects. Monk transforms the church space into a singing body that immerses the visitor in a fascinating audio-visual adventure.

Archaeology of perceptions

In interviews, Meredith Monk said: “I work between the cracks, where the voice starts dancing, where the body starts singing, where theatre becomes cinema.” In doing so, she stretches what you can do and where you can go. Monk creates works that deal with an intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound. Interdisciplinary works that encourage the healing power of art. That allows you to discover and build new ways of perception. In this 700-year church, Monk plays with the idea of the church as a body of archived stories. Yet seen from a humanistic perspective on the world. We are all very different, but still all human. There is a curiosity about what we leave behind in our world and what stories the objects tell. Meredith also stands up for nature. One of her pieces is called On behalf of Nature. In it, she tells us that the smallest particle always connects with the largest: the macrocosm. In the Oude Kerk, the contrast of the ancient and contemporary, aided by the beautiful filtered light, imparts a great sense of beauty. It all contributes to an allure we were unprepared for.

Music icon Meredith Monk in the 700-year-old ‘Oude Kerk’ Amsterdam
Music icon Meredith Monk in the 700-year-old ‘Oude Kerk’ Amsterdam

Monumental & intimate

Three of Meredith Monk’s pioneering key performance/multimedia installations are included in Calling. Monk’s groundbreaking 16 Millimeter Earrings, is a seamless integration of live performance, film, vocal and instrumental music, movement, objects, text, recorded sound and light. 16 mm explores different ways to manipulate individual images. Still very actual is Quarry revolving around the musings of an American child who lies sick in bed during WWII having a dream that gradually turns into a nightmare. An old radio in the middle of the room emits Monk’s voice, piano solos and fragments from fictional news broadcasts. The child’s illness is a metaphor for the darkness of the world at war. Juice is a theatre cantata in three instalments. It is considered one of Monk’s most important location-based musical theatre performances. After establishing her interdisciplinary company, The House, in 1968, Monk expanded this concept to large groups of local artists performing in monumental architectural spaces, such as the Guggenheim Museum. Monk goal for every location was to find another relationship between the audience and the artists. 

Rooms for looking & listening

Two listening and viewing rooms next to the entrance show the archive of Monk’s broad and diverse oeuvre. They also display the underlying central theme of Monk’s work: the cycles present in all processes, such as the relationship between humans and nature, the planetary world and the spiritual. Monk often gets inspiration from examining the way cells in the body and nature function. According to Monk, a process in which cooperation is more important than competition, altruism is more essential than selfishness, and mutual solidarity overcomes division. The Mirror Room contains recordings of live musical theatre and concert works. In the Kerkmeesterskamer you can listen to unpublished works material, fragments of interviews, documentaries and short films. 

Website Meridith Monk: Calling, Oude Kerk 

Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein 23 1012 GX Amsterdam

Music icon Meredith Monk in the 700-year-old ‘Oude Kerk’ Amsterdam