Wolfgang Tillmans Exhibits Music in His ‘Playback Room’ at a Munich Museum

Music is art too.

The German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans has designed a “Playback Room” which will be installed at the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich and opened to the public on February 16.

The concept—which the Turner Prize winner previously presented in his Berlin exhibition space, Between Bridges—aims to provide a presentation platform for recorded music on par with visual art by giving visitors the opportunity to hear records on a high-end, studio-quality stereo system.

The “Playback Room,” which comes complete with top-of-the-line Bowers & Wilkins speakers, and lounge chairs, is designed to fill the niche for enjoying music in a contemplative environment that is largely absent from today’s music consumption, which abounds with lo-fi digital audio players.

The exhibition takes place at Munich's Lenbachhaus. Photo: Lenbachhaus, Munich

The exhibition takes place at Munich’s Lenbachhaus.
Photo: Florian Holzherr via Lenbachhaus, Munich

“Some records are just perfect artworks, but you just cannot go anywhere to listen to the way the musicians heard it at the mastering stage,” Tillmans told the Guardian before the opening of the first Playback Room in Berlin, in September 2014.

For Tillmans, who launched his photographic career shooting London’s and Berlin’s rave scene in the early 90s, the space is a chance to re-expose listeners to the breadth of sound that often goes unheard when listening to a track through mainstream speakers or headphones. “While you can play them on your stereo or iPhone there is never a space dedicated to them and you can never listen in studio quality,” he lamented.

In a comment on the decision to dedicate museum space to the high-fidelity listening experience, Lenbachhaus states, “Most attempts to put music in exhibition spaces resort to paraphernalia; presentations of the music itself in suitable facilities, which would also require high-end speaker systems, are the rare exception.”

Wolfgang Tillmans Untitled (2011) Photo: Galerie Buchholz, Berlin via Lenbachhaus, Munich

Wolfgang Tillmans Untitled (2011)
Photo: Galerie Buchholz, Berlin via Lenbachhaus, Munich

To accommodate the show the museum will temporarily convert its Georg Knorr Auditorium into a music playback room, and Tillmans has personally put together two playlists for the event.

The first playlist is called To Know When To Stop—which the artist compiled especially for Lenbachhaus—includes tracks from Tillmans’s “Salle Techno” at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1994.

The second playlist titled Colorbox—(Music of the group (1982-1987) was previously included in Tillmans’s Playback Room at Between Bridges in Berlin.

The project was previously exhibited at Between Bridges, a Berlin arts non profit run by Tillmans. Photo: Between Bridges, Berlin

The project was previously exhibited at Between Bridges, a Berlin-based arts non-profit run by Tillmans.
Photo: Between Bridges, Berlin

On March 18, the museum will host a panel discussion on exhibiting music moderated by Matthias Mühling and featuring the American sound art curator Barbara London, the curator and art critic Sven Beckstette, and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Additionally, on three separate Friday nights (February 26, March 18, and April 8) Lenbachhaus invites visitors to bring their own music to play on the state-of-the-art stereo system.

“Playback Room, A Room For Studio Music” runs from February 16 – April 24, 2016 at Lenbachhaus, Munich.

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