Janet Cardiff: a Survey of Works Including Collaborations with Georges Bures Miller

From 21 May 2003 to 31 August 2003

Curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

21 May – 31 August, 2003


This exhibition is the first and most comprehensive survey of the work of Canadian artist Janet Cardiff (b. 1957, Brussels, Ontario). Originally presented in 2001 at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center/A MoMA Affiliate, New York, the exhibition includes collaborations with her partner George Bures Miller.

Cardiff explores the spatial nature of sound and shapes visual experience and other perceptual realms to create complex artworks that put into play narrative, desire, intimacy, love, loss, memory and the mechanisms of the brain. The artist creates interactive works in which visitors are asked to touch, listen to, smell and often move through an environment that is shaped by our perceptions of the real and by the artist’s manipulation of them.



Her works constantly shift between fact and fiction and comment on the ways in which technology affects our consciousness. Her poetic art of ambiguous and fractured narratives is also resonant of the world of film, theatre, and spectacle in general.

The exhibition unfolds throughout the third floor galleries of the Castello and begins with Three Thoughts (1986) an early print by the artist where all of her later themes and poetics are already present.

In 1991 in Canada, the artist began to create the ‘Walks’ that have brought her to international acclaim. In these audio and video ‘Walks’ documented in Gallery 37, visitors are guided through different places and textures of space by listening to binaural recordings. Members of the audience are encouraged to sit, don a pair of headphones connected to a CD walkman or to a DV videocam, and slip into narratives that take them back to the woods of Wanås Castle in Sweden, the gardens of Villa Medici in Rome, or the old Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh.

Although known mostly for these ‘Walks’, Cardiff has produced an art that is extremely variegated. Since the late 1980s, she has been making interactive audio, video and film installations. As a counterpoint to the ‘Walks’, this exhibition also presents a selection of the artist’s most significant installations, including To Touch (1993) in Gallery 35 and Forty Part Motet (2001) in Gallery 36. This installation is a spatial rendering of British composer Thomas Tallis’ 1575 motet Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui. The polyphonic Forty Part Motet is a hopeful and moving artwork – a hymn to intimacy within the crowd, to the individual within the collective, and to the beauty of the collective.

Many of Cardiff’s installations such as The Dark Pool (1995) in Gallery 34, are collaborations with artist George Bures Miller (b. 1960). This early installation of furniture, books, clothes, tools and sound suggests a relationship between mad science, the laboratory environment and artistic research.

One of their most recent collaborations is The Paradise Institute (2001), originally created for the Venice Biennial where it won a prize. Developing from earlier works reflecting on the space of the theatre such as Playhouse (1997) and The Muriel Lake Incident (1999), viewers are invited to enter the magical and dramatic worlds of memory and film where slippages between real and imaginary experiences occur.

Among the most perceptually engrossing, emotionally intense and seductive artworks of recent years, Cardiff’s works contribute to a shift in the communicational structure of art from a primarily frontal one to an exploration of the conversational dimension – the quiet, private realm of talking-listening.


Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev




From 21 May 2003 to 31 August 2003