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Translated by Anna Knight

Anna Holveck – The Music of the Milieu

by Raphaël Brunel

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Early December, Thiers. In front of the Usine du May, the deafening roar of the waterfall.


With a background in the fine arts, singing, and electro-acoustic composition, Anna Holveck sings Demy-style love while opening (fade in) and closing (fade out) a door, whispers a melody at the mouth of a sewer, or asks a group to generate a drone by reproducing various refrigerator tones. Sensitive to vibrational phenomena, in her (video) performances and audio works, she gives a central role to the body and voice as a resonating instrument and vector of communication. The organic as organum.

Des fourmis aux lèvres [Ants on the Lips] is her first solo exhibition.


Images floating in space. Screen 1: a man, yellow shirt, black beret, is sitting in the grass, holding a stick. There’s a script in front of him. All around him lie the Pyrénées. Below, there is a path – vanishing point. Screen 2: a second section of mountains. On the horizon, a tiny dot soon becomes a human silhouette, which becomes more distinct as it approaches. The two characters end up in the same shot. On the other side, the white noise of crickets. In between, and despite the space separating them, they never stop maintaining a discussion. Without yelling or 5G – out of range.


Théo Peyrusque and Bernard Miqueu are among the last people in the region to master whistled language. Still used in various parts of the world, this practice is indexed to a local language (in our case, Bearnaise) and a territory, restricting movements. The shepherds of the Pyrenees use it to communicate from one pasture to the other, playing with the echo of the mountains so as to be heard up to several kilometres away.

A loud buccal performance, the whistling can be considered here, like the sung or spoken voice, from the point of view of orality. More specifically, it defines a mediatised orality, amplified by the use of the fingers that allow the breath and the message it conveys to go beyond the visual and acoustic limits of the body. This kind of discursive framework, in which language is constantly being invested by musicality, strikingly recalls the relational nature of sound.

In the dialogue written by Anna Holveck, the main idea is for the two men to identify their location and undertake a reconnaissance mission of the terrain. The sequence allows a hint of absurd humour to filter through and makes an ironic echo to the ‘where are you?’ popularised by mobile phones. But above all, it expresses all of the realities of norms of a language in which the individual and social experience of a specific milieu are crystallised.


On the Pont de l’épée, people come and go. Red pullover. Sound fishing in the heart of the waterfall. Gastric noises? Everything seems curiously artificial.


In this video-performance, Anna Holveck films a sound recording. She probes the currents of the river with the aid of a hydrophone, thus rendering the inaudible audible. Listening requires attention. It reveals a hidden reality and promotes the appropriation of a space. We think of John Travolta and the field recording scene in Blow Out by De Palma, but particularly of R. Murray Schafer and his acolytes of the World Soundscape Project embarking on the discovery of our soundscapes. A discrepancy persists: the audio event is suspended when the microphone leaves the water. The image continues to unfold, mute.


Faint murmur hissing in space. Down by the River


A ball of ear buds broadcast songs containing the word river, reinterpreted by the artist’s friends. How do we connect or interconnect with sound, Anna Holveck seems to ask. Listening is undertaken personally or collectively, by turns.


Cut-up curtain. End of the loop. A window opens for two minutes. The sound of the waterfall fills the space. An interjection of reality.


In the subtle orchestration that the sound combination of these various pieces constitutes, the artist does not fail to carve out her niche in the vast composition of the world.

Born in 1993 in Toulouse, Anna Holveck lives and works in Paris. She obtained her DNSEP at the ENSBA de Lyon (École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts) in 2017. Anna Holveck also trained in lyrical/experimental singing and electroacoustic composition.

From 2015, she held various workshops, as well as numerous performances and public interventions, for instance at Subsistances, Lyon (2016, 2017); the ENSBA de Bourges (2016); the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016); the ENS de Lyon (2017, 2018); and the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017, 2020). Her sound works are regularly broadcast on *DUUU Radio (‘À son muet’[With Muted Sound], 2018; ‘I will make it’, ‘Flûtées’ [Sharp], 2019). Since 2017, Anna Holveck has participated in several collective exhibitions, like Les Enfants du Sabbat [Children of the Sabbath] at Le Creux de l'enfer, Thiers (2018) or Survivre ne suffit pas [Survival Is Not Enough] at the FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon (2019).

Anna Holveck

Des fourmis aux lèvres

Le Creux de l’enfer at the Usine du May


1 November 2020 – 21 February 2021

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