Richard Chartier (b.1971), sound and installation artist, is considered one of the key figures in the current of reductionist electronic sound art which has been termed both “microsound” and Neo-Modernist. Chartier’s minimalist digital work explores the inter-relationships between the spatial nature of sound, silence, focus, perception and the act of listening itself.
Chartier’s critically acclaimed sound works have been published over the past 12 years as 40 compact discs on labels such as 12k/LINE (US), Raster-Noton (Germany), Spekk (Japan), Non Visual Objects (Austria), Room40 (Australia), Die Stadt (Germany), DSP (Italy), ERS (Netherlands), and Trente Oiseaux (Germany). He has collaborated with noted sound artists Taylor Deupree, William Basinski, CoH, and German pioneer Asmus Tietchens, as well as installation artists Evelina Domnitch, Dmitry Gelfand, and visual artist Linn Meyers. His work currently appears on 38 international sound art and electronic music compilations.
Chartier’s sound works and installations continue to be presented internationally. His work has been exhibited in the 2002 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art (US), Sounding Spaces at NTT/ICC (Japan), I Moderni / The Moderns at Castello di Rivoli (Italy), Resynthesis at The Art Institute of Chicago and with the traveling sound exhibit Invisible Cities. His solo and collaborative installations have been shown at the Art Gallery of University of Maryland (US), Media Lab Enschede (Netherlands), Montalvo Arts Center (US), G Fine Art (US), Die Schachtel (Italy), The Contemporary Museum of Baltimore (US), Fusebox (US), and Diapason (US). Chartier continues to perform his work live across Europe, Japan, Australia, and North America. He has performed at noted art spaces/electronic music festivals including: MUTEK (Canada), GRM/Maison de Radio France (France), Musiktriennale Koeln (Germany), Observatori (Spain), DEAF (Ireland), Transmediale (Germany), NETMAGE (Italy), Lovebytes (UK), The Leeds International Film Festival (UK), The Rotterdam International Film Festival (Netherlands), REDCAT (US), and La Batie (Switzerland) and at art museums including: ICA (UK), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (DC), ICC (Japan), CAPC Musée D’Art Contemporain De Bordeaux (France), Musee d’Art Contemporain (Canada), The Contemporary Art Centre (Lithuania), and Sculpture Center (NY).
His live performances have taken place in conjunction with the exhibits Frequenzen [Hz] at the Schirn Kunsthalle (Germany) and A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958-1968 and Visual Music at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (US).
Since 2000, Chartier has continued to curate his influential recording label LINE, publishing 45 CDs and DVDs documenting the compositional and installation work of international sound artists who explore the aesthetics of contemporary and digital minimalism. Chartier’s Series, the premiere release on LINE, was awarded an Honorable Mention for Digital Music by Austria’s prestigious Prix Ars Electronica in 2001.
In 2006, Chartier was invited by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to create a sound work in conjunction with the Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibit. Titled Specification.Fifteen and composed with musician Taylor Deupree, this work is inspired by Sugimoto’s Seascape series. The audio performance premiere in the museum’s curved Lerner Room at sunset reflected the duality and stillness of Sugimoto’s series. The live recording was released on compact disc through Chartier’s LINE label. The work was awarded one of five Honorable Mentions for outstanding contemporary artistic positions in digital media art by the Jury of Transmediale.07 Award (Germany). With a special slowly shifting video piece incorporating Sugimoto’s Seascapes, a new version of Specifiation.Fifteen premiered at Berlin’s Akademie der Kuenste (Germany) in 2007. This audio/visual performance has subsequently been presented at Issue Project Room (NY) and Torun’s Center for Contemporary Art (Poland) and continues to be adapted.
In 2007, Chartier was invited by the Washington Project for the Arts, to curate two evenings of video and sound at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and month long screenings at G Fine Art (US) and Ellipse Art Center (US). This program, titled ColorField REMIX, assembled an array of internationally noted new media artists responding to the 1950s and 1960s Color Field movement and the Washington Color School, as part of a city wide celebration of these historical art movements. As an expanded program screening retitled Colorfield Variations, it continues to travel to digital art/film festivals and museums in Berlin and Köln (DE), London (UK), Belgrade (Serbia), Prague (CZ), Stuttgart (DE), Seville (ES), Torun (Poland), Brussels (BE), Tel Aviv (Israel), New York, and Seattle (US), as well as at The Hammer Museum (US). In 2009, this project, including exclusive new works, was released as a critically acclaimed limited edition DVD on LINE (US).
In 2009, Richard Chartier presented a unique first collaborative installation with visual artist Linn Meyers where optical and sonic patterns intersect. Untitled, exhibited at the Art Gallery of University of Maryland (US) two fifteen feet long by eight foot high walls meet in an enfolding chevron, creating both a sound chamber and a drawing surface. The swirling lines of Meyers’ drawing, made directly on the surface of the walls, fuse together with the sound piece by Chartier, juxtaposing the organic and the digital into unified sensorial space. With eight audio transducers applied directly to the back surface of the walls, Chartier’s stark composition modulates and transfers through the surfaces. Untitled(Angle.1), a stereo composition based on Untitled was released on Non Visual Objects (Austria) as a limited edition compact disc.
In March 2010, Chartier was awarded a Smithsonian Institution Artist Research Fellowship to explore the National Museum of American History’s collection of 19th Century acoustic apparatus for scientific demonstration. Chartier will focus specifically on the many sirens, waveforms, and other inventions of the German physicist Rudolf Koenig including the Tonometer (c. 1870-1875), the only instrument of its kind in existence.
A significant element of my work is the use of wholly digitally
rendered sounds that necessitate a focused engagement on the part of the auditor. Soft and hushed—almost imperceptible—fragments, high frequencies, bursts, static and quiet, low, shifting tones create a complex textural field. Idealized as an asymptotic process of composition that approaches an unattainable paradigm of formalism, the evidence left of the work’s creation speaks to an incremental and meticulous process of reduction. Sonic moments placed under a microscope for consideration and eventual emaciation; a cutting away or a deepening within and into an isolated microsecond. Compositional focus often occurs in the space between the sounds, both real and perceived. My work explores an implied silence that is not silent. The near-inaudible character of the sounds used belie the activity and energy of the composition itself. Generating a rich threshold between silence and sound that is meticulously structured, and in some cases cyclical, these pieces are often best experienced at low volumes or on headphones. My work tends to be sparse (or perceived as such) so that I may utilize this aspect to present compositional ideas and structures without extraneous elements impairing the conceptual clarity of each piece. With this I want to engage via listening as opposed to musicality. The sounds are treated with a sculptural integrity. Each crackle, hiss, and tone is distinct, an instantiation of an auricular physicality that nonetheless proximally and often approaches silence. Nearly transparent, each discrete audio instance in my work depends upon a narrowed engagement by the listener in contradistinction to the standard experiences of every day hearing. The narrative present in these patterns develops through a work’s particular existence in time and the sonic levels and plateaus that serve as events within that temporal space. In this sense, a faint rhythm is created and can provide a degree of structuring continuity to the piece, but as the work develops that rhythm is progressively fragmented and dematerialized into spectral remnants of its original. Knowable cycles can slowly develop, but within any discernment of pattern comes the particular auditory variance of the listener’s perception. In experiencing a stretched out and slowed down serial composition requiring attentive focus, the expected arrival of the next sound makes even the faintest change in rhythm, or introduction of alternate events, as significant as the spaces between the physical presences of sounds. My work can at times develop towards a more audible and less “silent” shift in aesthetic space. The continued significance of reduction and structure within my artistic process still links these compositions. As an installation, my work most often is re-contextualized into site-specific, controlled environments. The listener/ viewer becomes imbued in the physicality of the sound and its perception in relationship to his/her placement within the space. These installations aim to redirect the listener/viewer’s concentration and bring his/her attention to selective aspects of experiencing sound. I find that an empty gallery has the potential to mold an effective listening environment, or to create through the manipulation of sound a space of novel physical experience. This effect works upon those entering briefly or for extended periods of time, as the sound field shifts across the duration of the sound piece within the space. In a similar sense, the use of headphones in an installation provides the means to navigate the auditor into an even deeper area of attention, concentration, and focus. In line with my interests in expressions of form, i often remove visual cues from these spaces and approach as closely as possible a non-referential state within the work itself. An attempt at pure sound rather than visual art that makes sound, or the generation and experience of sound that does not depend upon a visual reference. An “object” such as a speaker or cable is treated as such, a means but not an end. My work explores the inter-relationships between the spatial nature of sound, silence, focus, perception and the act of listening itself.