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Exhibitions

Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet

19 Dec 2013 - 31 Aug 2014

Rideau Chapel

The publicly and critically acclaimed Forty-Part Motet is now back on display at the National Gallery of Canada. This brilliant sound sculpture by Canadian artist Janet Cardiff is a reworking of Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis, a 16th-century English composer. Forty separately-recorded choir voices are played back through 40 speakers positioned around the NGC’s Rideau Chapel.

The effect of the work on visitors is deeply moving, earning it a popularity rarely encountered by contemporary art. "Most people experience this piece now in their living rooms in front of only two speakers," says Janet Cardiff. "Even in a live concert the audience is separated from the individual voices. Only the performers are able to hear the person standing next to them singing a different harmony. I wanted to be able to climb inside the music."

Janet Cardiff, <em>Forty-Part Motet</em> (detail) 2001, 40-track audio installation. Installation dimensions variable. Purchased 2001. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa<br />
Photo © NGC

Janet Cardiff, Forty-Part Motet (detail) 2001, 40-track audio installation. Installation dimensions variable. Purchased 2001. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Photo © NGC