This week, acclaimed contemporary artists Anne Imhof, Eliza Douglas and composer Billy Bultheel released a new single ‘Dark Times’, the first track taken from their upcoming album SEX - comprised primarily of refigurations of songs composed for Imhof's art show of the same name, which was exhibited in Chicago in 2019. SEX is set to release on 3rd September 2021. A hyperbolic anti-anthem of the times we live in, ‘Dark Times’ lyrically references poet Bertolt Brecht’s famous poem written for Walter Benjamin titled Motto to the ‘Svendborg Poems’. The song manifests itself as a ballad in which Eliza Douglas’ captivating voice recites Brecht’s haunting lines to the classically composed melody.
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The 'Dark Times' video was shot by Lola Raban-Oliva and Jean-René Étienne and edited by Joji Koyama, under the artistic direction of Eliza Douglas. Douglas is an acclaimed artist who has held solo exhibitions at Air de Paris, Paris, Jewish Museum, New York and Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, among others, a well as having collaborated with artists including Hercules and Love Affair, Antony and the Johnsons and Devendra Banhart, alongside being Anne Imhof’s closest collaborator. Together, the pair have been working together since 2016, with Douglas composing and performing music for Imhof’s performances in this time.
Billy Bultheel is a composer and performance-maker based in Berlin and Brussels. His practice combines heavy electronics with medieval and baroque polyphony. From 2012-2019 Bultheel has been developing musical aspects of Imhof's performances, movies and installations and composed music for Imhof's pieces alongside with Eliza Douglas and Imhof herself. Billy Bultheel has a BA in music from the Royal Conservatory of The Netherlands and an MA in Choreography and Performance at the Justus-Liebig University, Germany.
Anne Imhof's SEX began as an art show
SEX was composed during the formation of Imhof’s art show of the same name. Exhibitions of SEX are immersive, atmospheric events, creating environments inhabited by groups of collaborators. During the day, visitors are able to explore Imhof’s installation of paintings, sculptures and architectural interventions for free. Then in the ticketed evening events, the spaces will come alive with music, lights and live performances. The evening performances contain strobe lighting and explicit content.
Adrian Searle described the evening shows at the Tate Modern thus:
I am left with a head full of images. A man thrashes at his own shadow with a bullwhip, the rhythmic echo of whip against wall a metronomic ricochet through the space. A waltz, set to a heartbeat pulse, becomes a wrestling match, or a tender embrace as the couple slowly falls on to a mat. A procession passes through, bodies lifted by their companions. Carrying becomes caring. Or are they being led to an auto-da-fé? A man looks down at the milling audience from a high gantry, as though he were on a balcony, watching the street below.Adrian Searle, on SEX as staged at The Tate Modern
Anne Imhof, Douglas and Bultheel, reworked the songs from how they appeared in the show, the result is a compelling record that acts as an accompaniment to the SEX performances, as well as standing alone as a progressive collection of contemporary compositions.
Upcoming SEX performances will be at Castello di Rivoli, Italy, on September 25th and 26th. The exhibition also includes a performance in Rome, in collaboration with the Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica on October 1st. The show was previously exhibited at Tate Modern London (2019) and The Art Institute of Chicago (2019). Imhof also currently has a film SEX on show at SMK, Copenhagen until August 29th with a soundtrack featuring pieces of this record.
Separately to SEX, Imhof’s Carte Blanche exhibition ‘Nature Mortes’ - the music of which was also composed by Douglas - is currently on show at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until October 24th. The show is an all-encompassing, sensory work which fuses space and bodies, music and painting and features her own works alongside collaborator Eliza Douglas and thirty other invited guest artists.