“Beyer – a woman, composer and immigrant is an impossible subject for a story”, according to Diana Policarpo, artist in residence from BoCA on the biennia 2019-2020.

“Total Eclipse”(2019) defines a new goal in the deep research Diana Policarpo has been going through about the leading composer Johanna M. Beyer (1888-1944), whose life and work (unfinished and ignored) constitutes the main inspiration for the newest pieces. The project inserts itself in a work Policarpo has been developing and that relates, in a critical manner, power issues in contemporary culture, in which sound is a fundamental matter by way of creation, mainly of sound installations and performances. The starting point is the seminal work of Beyer, precursor of electronic music and experimental composition, hailing from New York in the mid 20th century, whose own work she saw neglected and as such redirected to invisibility. Her profile of being an immigrant woman (Beyer is a North American composer born in Germany) is a factor for discrimination, according to Diana.

“The existing typewritten sheet music and texts are almost non-existing, so much of a work that is not meant to be seen as it is politically neglected. Literally obscured from sight, to such a degree that composer Henry Cowell’s recommendation to the Guggenheim Fellowship in Beyer’s name ends with a man’s endorsement, and not that of Beyer’s. The story is so flagrant. The strange confusion we can only read in her relationship reverberates from the archives, with her obsessed and him almost hateful.”

“Total Eclipse” is also a sound installation inspired in ‘Status Quo’ (1938), a performance by Sound of Spheres, for the unperformed political opera by the German-American Johanna M. Beyer. This means it is an arrangement and a story of art that broke art itself – which is what the term avant-garde wants to describe but still can’t, because Beyer was a woman.



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