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Telling Secrets, Making Art

By Claire J. Saffitz, Crimson Staff Writer

Hans Tutschku is an artist who defies classification. Although his first profession is composing, this associate professor of music and director of the Harvard University Studio for Electroacoustic Composition has experimented with performance art, sound installation, video art, and theater design.

Tutschku has incorporated all of these disciplines into a new art exhibition called “TELL ME!…a secret…” at the Carpenter Center, which opened last Thursday and will run for five weeks. The exhibit features photographs with interactive sound components, as well as a sound and light installation.

Tutschku had an enormous amount of creative freedom and played the dual role of artist and curator. According to him, the process of creating the exhibition—which started last June—involved a careful balance of human, technological, and visual components.

WALLS AND LAYERS

“Conceiving of the work was a trial of putting together layers,” he says. “It’s like reading a complicated text. What I like very much is that those layers work together.”

A small four-walled space stands in the center of the gallery. Three of the walls are mounted with photographs, while the fourth opens into a room. When a visitor enters the room, sound and light simulate the sensation of being underwater.

The photographs on the walls come from a performance art project Tutschku started in the 1980s, and have gone through many developments.

“The pictures you see today are quite far away from the originals,” Tutschku says. “They were the inspiration and the starting point.”

BREAKING BARRIERS

Like so much of Tutschku’s work, “TELL ME!…a secret…” incorporates the audience into the art. The three-paneled photographs are angled slightly to create a private space for the viewer.

Microphones protrude from the center panel of the photographs and invite the viewer to speak to the images. When a person speaks into a microphone, the voice is then distorted and played back.

“I am looking for interactions where the public is not just sitting. I want people to take time with something and become invested and to have a personal dialogue with it,” Tutschku says of his work.

“It is not fixed like a regular photo exhibit,” he adds. “You can discover something new about it every time you see it. It has a lot to do with my interest in action and reaction.”

ENDS AND BEGINNINGS

Tutschku emphasizes the fact that he wants viewers to be able to explore his work at length, if they so desire.

“The key word for my life is curiosity,” he says. “I’m an extremely curious person. I hope to open doors for others. I hope they experience something they wouldn’t normally.”

Tutschku, who was born in Berlin, has had an intimate relationship with art from a young age. Both his parents were musicians, and he started playing the piano at the age of 5. At 15, he joined a theater group.

Although drama is one of his passions, Tutschku prefers the freedom of composing.

“As a musician, I could shape my ideas in a more direct way. I could have more impact in what I wanted to do,” he says.

He has also experimented with other mediums such as pottery. However, Tutschku refuses to confine himself to one discipline. “It’s very hard for me to put a label on what I am doing,” he says. “I am a chameleon.”

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