Upon entering Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery to see Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art, the viewer is immediately confronted by a raucous wash of sonorous elements. Over fifty artists and conceptual writers occupy the gallery space; canonical works from Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt, Marcel Broodthaers, Carl Andre, and Dan Graham are nestled among pieces by contemporary practitioners, contributing to the sense of saturation. Originally curated by Nora Burnett Abrams and Andrea Andersson for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the exhibition is divided into five sections—appropriation, transcription, translation, redaction, and constraint—modestly re-adapted in order to suit the gallery’s layout.
Falling under the subtext of translation, Pavel Büchler’s Studio Schwitters (2010) is one of the raucous audio elements first encountered in the exhibition: a captivating visual and auditory anchor spanning one of the gallery’s main walls. A response to dadaist Kurt Schwitters’s nonsensical sound poem, The Ursonate (1922–32), a “sonata” predicated on the absence of language, Büchler’s sound installation uses a single laptop and seventy-five horn speakers to distort Schwitters’s poem. Using German text-to-speech software, the poem is translated from text to soundscape. The effect creates further distortion as the sounds are continually fed through the series of speakers; the resultant cacophony emulates a muddy symphony removed from a humanist dialogue through the insertion of the machine yet remains oddly warm and melodic.