Project 26 - Allora & Calzadilla

For the 26th Kaldor Public Art Project in Australia, internationally renowned artist duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla presented the celebrated project Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on 'Ode to Joy' for a Prepared Piano in the State Library of Victoria’s Cowen Gallery. This project combined sound, performance and sculpture, a captivating new experience for audiences.

Engaging, poetic and athletic, Stop, Repair, Prepare creates a relationship between the sculpture, the piano player and the piece of music. The artists cut a large hole from the centre of a Bechstein Grand Piano and made adjustments to the pedals, to allow the pianist to enter the piano and play it from within, wheeling it across the floor as they walk. Upside-down, their contorted and unwieldy performance becomes almost a gymnastic feat.

A meditation on art, idealism and power, the composition performed is the 4th movement of Beethoven’s famous 9th Symphony, known as ‘Ode to Joy’ and widely understood as a hymn to humanity, a testament to human fraternity and brotherhood. This ever-popular piece of classical music has been co-opted throughout its history by proponents of diverse and conflicting politics and ideologies – from nationalists to dictators, demagogues and its more recent adoption as the official anthem of the European Union in 1985. In Allora and Calzadilla’s variation, the work is recognisable but incomplete, as the cut renders two octaves of the piano inoperable and the resulting keys leave only a hollow resonance.