Events > Book Launch

07 May 2011

Book launch for Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound and Blackwood Gallery: Wood

Gordon Monahan
Blackwood Gallery
1 pm - 3 pm

Art Metropole is pleased to be hosting the launch of Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound – Sound Art, Performance and Music 1978-2011, the first comprehensive monograph on this uncompromising and radically innovative artist’s multifaceted body of work. Essays by Earl Miller (Toronto-based writer/curator) and Gabriele Knapstein (curator at Hamburger Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin) among others. Seeing Sound explores Monahan’s brilliantly inventive compositions and sound installations, as well as his long and distinguished career as a pianist, having premiered the compositions of such luminaries as Udo Kasemets, James Tenny and John Cage.

Running throughout 2011-13 concurrent with the publication of Seeing Sound is a retrospective of the same name, presented by four Ontario galleries; Maclaren Art Centre, Barrie, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Scarborough, Blackwood Gallery, Mississauga, and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa. Additional works can be seen in the following locations: Thames Art Gallery (Chatham-Kent, ON), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, NB), Kenderdine Art Gallery (Saskatoon, SK), singuhr-hoergalerie (Berlin, Germany) and Tom Thomson Art Gallery (Owen Sound, ON). Please visit the websites of these institutions for exact exhibition schedules.

In addition to our launch for Seeing Sound Art Metropole is pleased to have the opportunity to launch Wood, a compendium of Blackwood Gallery’s exhibitions and projects from 2009.

Part-catalog, part-magazine, part-annual report. Wood features sixty-four artists and writers from five exhibitions and two projects presented in chronological disorder. Artists from emerging to established, local to international, and of varied disciplines are all represented.

Gordon Monahan’s works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer-controlled sound environments span various genres from avant-garde concert music to multi-media installation and sound art. As a composer and sound artist, he juxtaposes the quantitative and qualitative aspects of natural acoustical phenomena with elements of media technology, environment, architecture, popular culture, and live performance.

Monahan began performing in public as a member of various rock bands in Ottawa, Canada (1968-73). Since 1978, he has performed and exhibited at numerous performance spaces, museums, galleries, and festivals, including Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), the Venice Bienale, the Secession (Vienna), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Mak Museum (Vienna) The Kitchen (NY), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Merkin Hall (NY), and Massey Hall (Toronto). Early in his career, he specialized as a pianist, performing John Cage’s Etudes Australes, premiering pieces by James Tenney and Udo Kasemets, and composing extended works for acoustic piano (Piano Mechanics, 1981) and amplified prepared piano (This Piano Thing, 1989). The renowned composer John Cage once said, “At the piano, Gordon Monahan produces sounds we haven’t heard before.”

Beginning in the late 1970’s, he created sound works using elements of natural forces and the environment, eventually constructing long string installations activated by wind (Long Aeolian Piano, 1984-88), by water vortices (Aquaeolian Whirlpool, 1990) and by indoor air draughts (Spontaneously Harmonious in Certain Kinds of Weather, 1996). His work for electronic tone generators and human speaker swingers (Speaker Swinging, 1982), is a hybrid of science, music, and performance art, where minimalistic trance music based on the Doppler Effect contrasts with issues central to performance art such as physical struggle and ‘implied threat’. Viewing the loudspeaker as a discrete instrument for generating or ‘representing’ music, Monahan has constructed a loudspeaker catapult (A Magnet That Speaks Also Attracts, 1986) and a series of ‘imitation’ loudspeaker installations (Music From Nowhere, 1989). During the 1990’s he developed an ensemble of multi-functional computer-controlled sound-machines which undergo various transformations in performance and installation environments. In Sounds and the Machines That Make Them (1994), a computer controls the actions of a network of machine sculptures built from electronic surplus and industrial trash, which generate complex layers of acoustically produced sounds. In Multiple Machine Matrix (1996-98), a remote-controlled robot enters this environment and pretends to learn how to perform and behave on a public stage. Monahan created an interactive mechanical sound installation for the Sony Center in Berlin (Silicon Lagoon, 2000), and has developed installations using computer-controlled water drops falling upon amplified objects (When it Rains, 2000/_Theremin in the Rain_, 2005). Recent works include multi-channel sound installations (A Very Large Vinyl LP Constructed in Acoustic Space, 2007), Theremin Pendulum, a chaotic theremin installation (2008), and Gamelan Klavier (2009), a composition for gamelan and prepared piano.

Monahan’s interest in ‘hi- and low-tech’ and ‘high and low culture’ led him to collaborate with Laura Kikauka and Bastiaan Maris in establishing The Glowing Pickle (Berlin, 1993-95), an electronic surplus store using 20 tons of discarded East German scientific equipment, parodying both communist and capitalist cultures. He also collaborated with Laura Kikauka to produce the infamous Berlin underground club Schmalzwald (1996-2000). From 2000 until 2004 he led the Berlin-based group Fuzzy Love, performing on electric organ.

Gordon Monahan won First Prize at the 1984 CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers, as well as commissions from the Vancouver New Music Society; CBC Radio; Dade County Art in Public Places, Miami; The Kitchen, New York; the DAAD Inventionen Festival, Berlin, the Donaueschingen Musiktage and the Sony Center, Berlin. His controversial commission for the Dade County MetroRail transit system was banned during the 1988 New Music America festival in Miami. That same year, Monahan was chosen as CBC Radio’s entry to the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. Monahan has been Artist-in-Residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts (1990), the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1991), D.A.A.D., Berlin (1992-93), the Western Front, Vancouver (1999), Podewil, Berlin (2002), Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2006), Museumsquartier, Vienna (2008), and a fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts (1991).

The Blackwood Gallery is a contemporary art gallery situated on the Mississauga campus of the University of Toronto. The Gallery presents curated exhibitions featuring the work of local, national, and international professional artists. The main space of the Gallery is located in room 140 of the Kaneff Centre on Inner Circle Road. The Blackwood has an additional exhibition space, the e|gallery, on the ground floor of the Communication, Culture, and Information Technology Building (CCT). The Blackwood also programs the Bernie Miller Lightbox on the outside of South Building.

Opened in 1969 as the Erindale College Art Gallery – the first public art gallery in the Peel region – the Gallery was renamed in 1992 in honour of Canadian artist David Blackwood who was artist-in-residence at UTM from 1967-1971 ( The Blackwood family marked the occasion by making a significant gift of art works that remain a cornerstone of the Blackwood’s permanent collection.

The Blackwood presents approximately five exhibitions each year, including off-site exhibitions and graduating students shows. In addition to its exhibition schedule, the Blackwood presents a number of special projects, including publications, public lectures, symposia, and conferences. During the summer months, the Gallery operates Running With Scissors, a contemporary art day camp for kids aged 5-12.

The Blackwood Gallery seeks to be a catalyst for current debates, and a laboratory for contemporary artistic and curatorial experiments. Through its activities, it aims to disturb preconceptions, foster discussion, and engage the intellect as well as the senses.


1: Display of Seeing Sound and Wood, back to back.
2: A visitor watches Gordon Monahan: Video Compilation, the DVD acompanying Seeing Sound.
3: Seeing Sound and Gordon Monahan: Video Compilation, "aeolian winds over claybank Saskatchewan.
4: A lovely spread of refreshments and snacks.

  1. Book launch for Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound and Blackwood Galle
  2. Book launch for Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound and Blackwood Galle
  3. Book launch for Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound and Blackwood Galle
  4. Book launch for Gordon Monahan: Seeing Sound and Blackwood Galle