Lily Greenham, Untitled
Lily Greenham: An Art of Living
Mar 8 – May 26, 2024
Badischer Kunstverein
Karlsruhe, Germany

Lily Greeham: An Art of Living presents the extraordinary work of the artist, author and composer Lily Greenham (1924-2001) in a first comprehensive exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth. This project is part of a series of exhibitions featuring female Concrete Poetry artists whose work remains under-represented today. In collaboration with Goldsmiths, University of London, which houses Greenham’s archive, we pay tribute to her seminal works of Sound Poetry and Lingual Music, as well as the works of Op Art, Kinetic Art and Computer Graphics represented in international collections.

The exhibition focuses on the radical nature of Greenham’s polyphonic, polylingual, multinational and feminist work. Her almost restless switching between different places, languages and disciplines is closely linked to Greenham’s own biography, which prompted her early on to repeatedly engage with new events, languages and contexts. She remained faithful to sound poetry throughout her life, and the presentation at the Kunstverein therefore also focuses on Greenham’s own poetic and electroacoustic compositions from the late 1960s onwards, as well as on her performances and vocalizations of works by other colleagues of Concrete and Experimental Poetry in their original languages.

Lily Greenham coined the term lingual music and her pioneering voice-based studio techniques have strongly influenced subsequent generations of experimental musicians. In Lingual Music, Greenham used her voice as a radical sound resource on tape: letters, syllables, words and sentences are stretched, superimposed, repeated or rhythmized in a beat-like manner. Her pioneering sound works include Relativity (1974), which was recorded at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and Traffic (1975), which was created in the Electronic Music Studios at Goldsmiths, University of London. In Circulation (1975/76), Greenham used the sampler on a PDP-8 computer long before commercial audio samplers were available.

Greenham’s visual art was closely associated with Op Art and the New Tendencies movement of the 1960s. These works were shown in several major exhibitions, including The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965), Lumière et mouvement at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris (1967) and at the 35th Venice Biennale (1970). In addition to these early visual works, the exhibition at the Kunstverein also includes a group of Greenham’s computer graphics from the 1980s, which are being shown for the first time. As one of the few women in the then predominantly male-dominated art and music world of the 1960s and 70s, Greenham described herself as an outsider who always refused to be restricted by convention. Her artistic practice embodies an openness to new experiences, a rejection of normative structures, an existence outside of society and beyond nationality.

The exhibition and accompanying events approach Lily Greenham’s multidisciplinary life and work from different perspectives in order to show the unique diversity of her oeuvre. The various themes of the exhibition are accompanied by numerous photographs, letters and notes from the Lily Greenham archive in London, and this project has been preceded by five years of extensive research by the London curators and a sustained collaboration with researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, providing the public with access to a wealth of new material on Greenham’s work and life for the first time.

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