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EXCERPTS & ESSAYS

MING LIN | DATE 8/12/2011

Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi

In the first track of Erkki Kurenniemi's 1968 debut album Information Explosion, a single resounding beep escalates unceremoniously into a cacophony of sound. There are bursts of classical music and splashes of synthesizer. Occasionally it bears resemblance to the popular German synthpop band Kraftwerk, but unlike the former, Kurenniemi provides no safe narrative in which the listener can take refuge--there are only sporadic episodes of recognizable sound from an eclectic array of samples. This cut-and-paste approach might be likened to the work of Christian Marclay, whose "sound collages" were composed of clips woven together from records on a turntable. Kurenniemi's works, however, are determined by a more concrete rationale. A trained nuclear physicist and mathematician turned musician, it is evident that his compositions are fueled by an underlying logic.
Kurenniemi's methodical approach does not render his work devoid of sensual or emotional content. In 1970 he created the video synthesizer DIMI-O (also known as the the "Sexophone") which generated light and sound based on human contact. When stimulated by several participants at once, the instrument would react to their collective emotional states, thereby converting them into a blast of discordant sound and roving light. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Terry Riley to create the first “happening” in Finland. He orchestrated the event using artists from the Finnish underground music scene including the band The Sperm. One might infer that with the calculated compositions of sound and action, Kurenniemi has attempted to emphasize that the products of new technology are inevitably governed by with the human characteristics of chance and spontaneity.

Kurenniemi's contribution to Documenta 13’s 100 Notes, 100 Thoughts series is a facsimile excerpt from a personal diary from October 1980. A myriad of technical drawings are found alongside recounted daily events as well as sketches for performance pieces and traces of personal relationships. On one page is a Polaroid of a woman staring off into the distance and on another the artist himself glares from a thumbnail photograph. In introduction to the diary, Lars Bang Larson notes that to Kurenniemi it is desire--“its excess, gratuitousness, negation, or lack”--that distinguishes humans from machines. Kurenniemi finds this struggle and unpredictability invigorating and seeks to infuse his compositions with it.
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi
Documenta Notebooks: Erkki Kurenniemi

Erkki Kurenniemi

Erkki Kurenniemi

Hatje Cantz
Pbk, 5.75 x 8.25 in. / 48 pgs.