Oliver Beer
Pay and Display

Pay and Display is a film of a performance, for which there was no audience, staged in the multistory Pershore Street car park in Birmingham, a brutalist building, arguably one of the most inhospitable environments for a musical performance. Dilapidated and empty, the ghostly presence of the car park comes to life. Beer composed the piece to resonate with this architecture, finding the frequencies that would bring the building to life, acting as a sound box and in effect another voice. Thus the inherent harmonies of the architecture are revealed. The building becomes almost a mythical figure constantly harrying the public working itself into a frenzy of demands for money. The quasi-religious nature of the music suggests the primacy of mammon in our society, climaxing on the word Sunday, which is the day of worship in the Christian week. The text of the piece is based on the signs that are scattered insistently around the car park: ‘Have you paid and displayed except on Sunday’. There is thus a consonance between the vocal score, written in six parts, and the environment. His choice of building was in line with the project as a whole, which seeks to animate spaces that are generally forgotten, hidden or unremarked but which play an essential social role. The film is played on two large-scale screens with high quality sound, creating an intense immersive experience.

The work of Oliver Beer explores the resonances in buildings and objects, exploiting the occurrence of natural frequencies that turn buildings and objects not only into amplifiers but musical instruments. Having studied musical composition at the Guildhall School of Music, he then trained as a fine artist at Ruskin School of Art. The artist combines expert musical knowledge with fine art practice to create performances, objects and films. Most recently, his piece for four voices was performed at Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery in London. Four singers, each in a different corner of the room, sang a score he composed specifically for the room, having established on what notes the room would resonate. In Beer’s practice, the room becomes a massive sound box, a wind instrument that is an extension of the singers’ own wind instrument, and the voice that resonates in the mind. The building, in effect, sings back to the singers. While there something quite Orphic about this process, the resonance equally has a strong relationship to the Platonic belief in the harmonics of the universe. The resonance project pitches sublime sound with the most banal, or democratic of architecture. Car parks, sewers, concert halls, corridors, vestibules and staircases have been the venues for his work, all of which is site specific.