Immersive sounds and mind-bending light shows are part of Kaiser Chiefs first art exhibition which opened in York today.
Four of the band were in the city to launch When All Is Quiet at York Art Gallery. A journey in music and light, it is one of the most ambitious and challenging exhibitions ever staged in the venue.
Kaiser Chiefs’ drummer Vijay Mistry told YorkMix:
It started off as quite a simple concept within one room – pick a piece of art from the archive and then find an accompanying piece of music that you think would suit it.
We thought that was great, but then we wanted to know what else we could do and how far we could take it.
And they’ve taken it a long way…
A deconstructed gig
If this was a festival, the headliner would be Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet, a room with 40 speakers arranged in an oval.
Each speaker plays the vocal of one member of a choir singing Thomas Tallis’ Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui.
It is a weird experience – at once inspiring and unsettling.
Another of the mind-altering exhibits is Silent Gig. Lyrics from songs are projected on the floor of a cube while a swirling light show echoes the unheard music.
“The Silent Gig is our concept of a deconstructed gig – the elements of a gig that help the excitement, the energy and the feel of being at a show, but without the aspects you’d normally associate with that: music and the band,” said Vijay.
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Secret to life in a band
It’s been a team effort. And there have been no major fallouts over creative differences, said bassist Simon Rix.
“I think in bands you always have to work out who’s best at what and try and let them do it,” he explained.
“Find what people are good at and let them do it. That’s the secret to long life in a band.”
Simon and Vijay have taken the lead on the project, and lead singer Ricky Wilson has left them to it.
The exhibition was co-curated by Dr Beatrice Bertram and Fiona Green at York Art Gallery.
Dr Bertram, the gallery’s senior curator, said:
The band have been brilliant. They’ve been so helpful and really accessible – they’re so nice and so knowledgeable.
Obviously there have been a few times where we’ve had to say there are some things we can’t do in an art gallery, but we’ve navigated our way together.
I think what we’ve produced as a team is really fantastic.
Ambitious and different
She described the concept of the Silent Gig as “slightly terrifying”.
“You’ve got precious paintings from 1798 – and you want to put a light show, with a lot of tech, in the gallery? Excellent!
“But when we talked it through and thought about what it would mean for the visitor we thought, let’s go for it.
“This is ambitious, this is different, we’re mixing genres, we’re mixing different types of media. And this is the first time we have done anything like this.”
Kaiser Chiefs are a Leeds band, but both Vijay and Simon are fans of York.
“I actually came to study here for a year – and disappeared back to Leeds,” said Simon.
“It’s a very unique city in the UK. It’s a very nice place – and it’s in Yorkshire.”
Vijay told us “I wanted to go to York University actually, but looking at the offer that they gave me, I don’t think they wanted me to go to their university!”