Hirshhorn To Present One-Night-Only Performance by Pioneering Composer and Artist Meredith Monk

Saturday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m.
June 26, 2019
News Release

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Women in chairs as performance art

Clockwise: Meredith Monk, Katie Geissinger, Ellen Fisher, Allison Sniffin, Jo Stewart 

Photo by Juileta Cervantes 

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present “Cellular Songs in Concert,” a one-night-only celebration of works by the groundbreaking American composer, vocalist and multidisciplinary artist, Meredith Monk, Saturday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Joined by the women of her renowned Vocal Ensemble, Monk will perform “Cellular Songs,” the latest in a series of music-theater pieces exploring the interdependency of humans and nature. The Washington, D.C., premiere of this work, which combines instrumental music, light, movement and film, comes on the heels of multiple significant performance exhibitions at the Hirshhorn, including “Yoko Ono: Four Works for Washington and the World,” “Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body” and “Tino Sehgal: This You,” a testament to the museum’s commitment to presenting works of art in all media.

Throughout her career, Monk’s practice has existed at the intersection of music and movement, image and object and light and sound, encouraging viewers to explore new ways of experiencing the world. Using this technique for “Cellular Songs,” Monk draws inspiration from cellular activity to explore what the macroscopic might learn from the microscopic. The work itself aims to look inward to humans’ most fundamental biological systems in a mediation on the relationship between the individual and the collective.

“For years, Monk has proved to be a peerless influence on experimental artistic practices,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “Her work, and ‘Cellular Songs’ in particular, represents an unparalleled ambition to transcend mediums and work across genres, speaking to the broader trends in our cultural climate where lines between art forms are increasingly blurred.”

Over the past six decades, Monk has become recognized as one of the most original and influential artists of her time, and a pioneer in what is now known as “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance.” Monk creates artwork that employs the voice as an instrument and a language unto itself. “Cellular Songs in Concert” will take Monk’s penchant for elevating art forms to a theoretical level, exploring the intersection of biology and anthropology, nature and society, and prompting people to consider how they relate to the world around them.

Organized by Mark Beasley, the Hirshhorn’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Secretarial Scholar, Curator of Media and Performance Art, “Cellular Songs in Concert” is made possible through support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. “Cellular Songs in Concert” continues the Hirshhorn’s long-standing commitment to performance and experimental art. Past projects include Theaster Gates’ commissioned “Processions” series, Ragnar Kjartansson’s “Woman in E,” “Shadow/Casters” in collaboration with Transformer and “Rirkrit Tiravanija: (who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green).”

Tickets are $25 and will be available online starting June 26 at 12 p.m. EST. There will be a limited number of $20 tickets for Hirshhorn Members.

About the Artist

Monk is a composer, singer, director, choreographer, filmmaker and creator of new opera, music-theater works, films and installations. Considered one of the most influential artists of her time, Monk has received numerous awards and honors, including the MacArthur “Genius” award and being named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France. Recently, Monk received three of the highest honors bestowed on a living artist in the United States: induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2019), the 2017 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize and a 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. In conjunction with her 50th season of performing and creating work, she was named Carnegie Hall’s 2014–15 Debs Composer’s Chair. Celebrated internationally, Monk’s work has been presented at major venues throughout the world.

Monk’s Vocal Ensemble was founded in 1978 to further expand Monk’s groundbreaking exploration of the human voice and has received multiple awards and critical acclaim, including a 2008 Grammy nomination for “impermanence.” Appearing in festivals, theaters and concert halls around the world, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble can also be heard on numerous recordings on the ECM New Music Series label.

About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. With nearly 12,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works, its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year (closed Dec. 25). For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.

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