press release

In keeping with its ongoing policy of bringing the visual arts and music together, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting the Canadian premiere of from here to ear v.19 by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, from November 25, 2015 to March 27, 2016. For this immersive installation, the Contemporary Art Square will be transformed into a giant aviary, one of the largest ever created by the artist, who represented France in the 2015 Venice Biennale.

"This presentation is another in our programme of exhibitions where art and music intersect: following Imagine and Warhol Live, it was only natural for us to present the Canadian premiere of this magical, poetic work by artist and musician Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. It's another first for the Museum, which is being transformed into a musical aviary—complete with live birds! We invite visitors to come and marvel at their collective performance," said Nathalie Bondil, the Museum's Director and Chief Curator.

An unusual musical pairing of birds and electric guitars, from here to ear v.19 "stars" more than 70 zebra finches. These enchanting little birds, native to the Australian grasslands, "perform" in their aviary in the Square, where visitors can stroll around "bird territory." The finches perch on guitars and electric basses plugged into amplifiers, producing live sounds on instruments tuned to open blues tunings or rock power chords to create a lively, organic, ephemeral piece of music, which changes as visitors walk around the gallery.

The first version of from here to ear was presented at MoMA PS1 in 1999. Since then, various works have been exhibited under the generic title from here to ear. While these installations share a common principle—an aviary where visitors can get close to the birds, whose activity creates a live piece of music—each installation is to be considered as a unique work determined by the circumstances of the exhibition setting. After New York, Paris, Milan, Linz in Austria, and Brisbane, this is the 19th presentation of the installation.

Born in Nice in 1961, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot lives and works in Sète, France. After serving as composer for writer and director Pascal Rambert's Side One Posthume Théâtre company, the artist, a musician by training, began to give autonomous form to his music by creating installations. Since 1994, he has been combining visual arts and experimental music while making use of the codes of live entertainment. Starting with the most diverse situations or objects, he seeks out their musical potential, conceiving systems that extend the idea of a musical score to the unorthodox configurations of materials and media he uses to generate forms of sound that he calls "living" music. In recent years, Boursier-Mougenot has expanded his practice to include choreography, applying his composition process to moving objects. He is represented by Paula Cooper Galleries in New York, Xippas in Paris and Mario Mazzoli in Berlin.

The exhibition was installed with the assistance of Yves Théoret, Head of Curatorial Affairs, Sandra Gagné, Head of Exhibitions Production, Richard Gagnier, Head of Conservation, and Marie-Eve Beaupré, Curator of Quebec and Canadian Art (1945 to Today). The Museum is also working with a team of veterinary technicians, and an avian veterinarian visits regularly to ensure optimal living conditions for the finches are maintained.