Investigative journalist William Thomas Stead is said to have anticipated his death on the Titanic in his 1982 story From the Old World to the New. In the empty workshops and showrooms of Steinway & Sons, past keyboards waiting to be played, anticipating the rhythm of sounds not yet heard, Stead stands guard to the memories unfolding in our mind; a playful echo, a subtle proposition.
Lundahl & Seitl’s latest piece is a guided tour of sorts. It investigates the inherent poetics of music’s own movement- its narrative pathways and its emotive arches. It flirts with questions of authenticity of experience, whilst also holding an oblique engagement with voyeurism; at times, I feel I’m falling through water, at others I touch my reflection in the cold texture of a mirror, and gaze at what might be in front of me.
Marked by absences, the Steinway & Sons building becomes a museum of curious objects into whose history we delve, whose beauty we admire. The Memory of W T Stead navigates between aesthetic memory and sonic imagination. It’s a piece that quite naturally emphasizes the relationship between sound and movement; wearing headphones for the most part, we embark on a journey where time becomes elastic, where narratives engulf us, originating both around us and within us. Characters emerge and disappear and textures act as gateways into possible avenues; meaning drifts.
In collaboration with pianist Cassie Yukawa, The Memory of W T Stead revolves around a single moment: the performance of one of Ligeti’s Etudes, the Hungarian avant-garde contemporary composer’s most acclaimed set of works. Titled via a mix of poetics and technicality, the studies play with distortion, vastness and mirroring, recalling volumes and patterns, a rhythmic flirting with minimalism and a confident deconstruction of the epics of Baroque. Bach is here too, hundreds of years away- and the piano is where they meet, through Yukawa’s dextrous hands. On this journey, we travel in different time zones; we perceive history, notice detail and anticipate the movement of the hands poised over the keyboard.
Lundahl & Seitl’s work is informed by the writings of Thomas Metzinger. Navigating philosophy and neuroscience, Metzinger’s argument illuminates a particular relationship between consciousness and the self, investigating the role and impact of illusions, dreams and out of body experiences. The experiental self is key in the artist duo’s work; and in their collaboration with Yukama, this sense of liminality, of states of in between, is evocative and meditative.
As with previous Lundahl & Seitl pieces, there’s a real interest in anticipating feeling, in suggesting narrative and creating an environment for a particular consciousness. In this instance, and despite the poetics of the piece, it feels like more of a tentative attempt. Given the specificity of the site itself, it’s hard not to glimpse over the incentive behind the piece. There are moments that feel threatened, stretched, disjointed. At the same time, this unevenness gives particularity to the piece, and that jolting of awareness, the dramaturgical play with anticipation, flavour The Memory of W T Stead, sometimes revealing its vulnerable skeleton and at other completely transporting us into ourselves.