Slave Pianos, Foreign Knowledge, Programme Cover


Slave Pianos, Foreign Knowledge, Programme Text


Slave Pianos, Foreign Knowledge, Programme Text

Künstlerhaus Bethanien and The University of Ballarat
A Documentary Monodrama by


I have made a heap of all that I could find

For Soprano, Narrator, Chorus, Computer Operated Piano and Tape Machine

After the writings, letters, artwork and music of Peter Tyndall.

With Tracy Bourne, Soprano and Kurt Geyer, Narrator.

6pm, Friday September 27, 2002
Old Courthouse Building, Camp Street
Ballarat, Victoria

Dramatis Personae:

Peter Tyndall, PainterOverhead Projector, Semaphore Flags
Peter Tyndall, EssayistKurt Geyer, Narrator
Peter Tyndall, EpistolistTracy Bourne, Soprano
Peter Tyndall, StaterPhillippa Chalke, Erin Cooke, Adrian Corbett,
Emily Devlin, David Harford, Ben Jenner,
Danny Miller, Shannon Woodford, Chorus
Peter Tyndall, ComposerTape, Piano

Peter Tyndall, Epistolist/Soprano:


Peter Tyndall, Stater/Chorus:


A Person Looks At a Work Of Art/
someone looks at something …


In Australia We Say: But Is It Art?






Eine Person betrachtet ein Kunstwerk/
Jemand betrachtet etwas …

Peter Tyndall, Essayist/Narrator:

Journal Article



Thankyou to Katja Borchert, Tracy Bourne, Jane Crawford, Irene Crebbin, Jeremy Drape, Mikala Dwyer, Nicholas Girling, Antanas Kesminas, Audrone Kesminas, Renae Kingdom. Darren Knight, John McDonald, Mathias Mrowka, Roslyn Salmon, Helen Saniga, The University of Ballarat Arts Academy, Vice Chancellor University of Ballarat, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, The City of Ballarat, Bildener Künstler Berlins GmbH, The Künstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin and The Australia Council. Production Manager: Sarah McPhaill Assistant Production Manager: Jordan Sullivan. SLAVE PIANOS is represented by Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.

SLAVE PIANOS, Neglect Is No Laughing Matter

Neglect Is No Laughing Matter

In 1981, Peter Tyndall, commenting on his own work, described the manner in which meaning is constructed, how truth is relative and history contingent:

A painting does not float, independent, half-way up a random wall. ‘It’ is physically dependent on the strings which support it against the gravitational force which would bring ‘it’ down …nor can ‘the (one’s) perceiving’ be considered outside the influence or colouring of either the physical light (physical lights) or the metaphoric lights (cultural knowledge …)

Nineteen years later, in a letter to the director of the National Gallery of Australia, Tyndall objected:

I do not understand why for two whole decades the NGA has so ignored my work. (Even your recent, publicised, purchase of SLAVE PIANOS material has no SLAVE GUITARS material to properly contextualise it.)

FOREIGN KNOWLEDGE (I have made a heap of all that I could find) offers something of a correction to this complaint. This documentary monodrama is based on the aforementioned letter and an autobiographical lecture by Tyndall published in Tension magazine in 1989.

SLAVE PIANOS’ work has been constantly developing since 1998.

The most recent project of ours in the collection of the NGA was created in 2000.

SLAVE PIANOS are indebted to Peter Tyndall; he is ‘the go-between’. Firstly, the etymology of our moniker derives from his 1978 work, SLAVE GUITARS of the Art Cult. Indeed, we have adopted a form of his ‘Puppet Culture Framing System’ ideogram as our logo. Tyndall metamorphosed his universal framing device and his puppeteer’s marionette hand controls with strings into a guitar. We continued this evolutionary process with the same continued dependence on strings, a framing device and gravitational force to accommodate a piano.

Secondly, we have embraced Tyndall’s project - to render visible the viewer’s relation to art - and applied it to the phenomenon of visual artists’ music, improvisations and noises. Our transcriptions of these performances into musical notation objectify the abstract space of sound art.

FOREIGN KNOWLEDGE frames the relationship between the artist and the circulation of his art. The monodrama examines his dependence upon institutional support to: forward his career, give voice to his fundamentally critical pieces, and buttress his paintings against the said gravitational force. The libretto reveals Tyndall’s aspiration toward self-historicisation and the subsequent indignation regarding his perceived neglect. These are the unrequited conditions of a casualty of history, outside the influence or colouring of cultural knowledge, both physical and metaphysical.

Humour is pervasive in Tyndall’s work. In 1974 he coined the maxim, ‘If you’re really serious you should be laughing’. According to Ashley Crawford, ‘this has had the effect of severely disorientating critics… (and collectors, museum acquisitors etc) …and other viewers who take their Art too seriously.’ Sadly, neglect is no laughing matter. HA HA.

Ballarat – Berlin, September 2002.

  1. Peter Tyndall ‘SLAVE GUITARS (formerly SLAVE GUITARS of the Art Cult)’, Art + Text no.4, Summer 1981, pp.44–45.
  2. Peter Tyndall Letter to Brian Kennedy, Director, National Gallery of Australia, 3 May 2000.
  3. Peter Tyndall ‘FOREIGN KNOWLEDGE (I have made a heap of all that I could find)’, Tension 21 June 1990, pp.40–51.
  4. Ashley Crawford, ‘detail: a person looks at peter tyndall’, Tension 18 1989, pp.42–45.