LMAKgallery is pleased to announce the opening of Jane Benson’s solo exhibition Song for Sebald.
The exhibition features a, ten-panel, series of works on paper each with an individual component of
In Song for Sebald, Jane Benson explores the themes of separation and belonging through a radical
encounter with the writer W.G. Sebald’s novel, The Rings of Saturn. Benson begins with the physical text
of the novel and a knife. By carefully excising every part of the text except the syllables of the musical
scale - do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti – she uncovers what we might call the “potential music” of Sebald’s prose:
a set of notes with a full tonal range hovering both inside and outside of the novel, untethered from the
original text and radically disjointed within itself.
From that point of radical excision and destruction, Benson moves to the process of re-creation. Benson
actualizes the novel’s potential music through a process that links together author, artist, composer, and
performer. Each of the novel’s ten chapters produces a separate movement created collaboratively by
composer Matthew Schickele; in each, the pace of the music is guided by the spaces between the
excavated syllables (the spaces Benson has cut) and its emotive lyric determined by a set of
improvisations guided by elements of Sebald’s prose. Each chapter/movement has its own mood,
dynamics, and process of creation, depending on the characters and themes of the original novel, and on
interactive processes determined by Benson and Schickele. The collaged recordings of each movement
are encountered by viewers in sound pods equipped with headphones that are presented alongside each
chapter of incised text, with the entire score played in the gallery daily at noon.
Sebald’s experimental fiction and essays demonstrate a preoccupation with displacement, foreignness,
and extraterritoriality, reflecting his own experience of self-imposed exile from his native. Both
thematically and formally, Sebald’s prose reflects its author’s experience of radical dislocation; his
narrators often seem to stand apart from their physical and textual surroundings, the stories they tell – at
once personal and impersonal – reflect the creative potential of estrangement and disorientation.
Benson’s work explores and expands this same creative potential; her elaborate and multi-stage process
creates gaps and absences in order to stitch them together over time and across media, in a process of
collaboration that links together nationalities, disciplines, genders, and fields of creative work. In this,
Song for Sebald not only gestures toward the work of a single author, but also speaks with urgency to our
present international moment, in which the plight – and the promise – of displaced persons has become
more important than ever before.
Song For Sebald will travel to the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio to be exhibited in Benson’s
first survey exhibit, opening in the Summer of 2017.
Born in the UK, Benson received her BFA from Edinburgh College of Art and her MFA from the School of
the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited in national and international venues including MoMA PS1,
New York; Sculpture Center, LIC, NY; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, CT; Queens Museum, NY;
Socrates Sculpture Park, NY; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the Scottish National
Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; San Jose Museum Of Art, San Jose and North Carolina Museum of
Art, NC. Solo exhibitions and performances have been held at BOCA Museum of Art, Boca Raton; Henry
Street Settlement: Abrons Arts Center, NY; Thierry Goldberg Gallery, NY; Black & White Gallery, NY;
Roebling Hall Gallery, NY; Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NY. Benson is currently teaching at Cornell University,
in the Department of Art.
Jane Benson would like to thank the composer Matt Schickele, mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, and the
vocal performers Tomas Cruz and Joe Chappel without whom this project would not have been possible