Phillip Sollmann
Phillip Sollmann, Photo: Lendita Kashtanjeva

Phillip Sollmann (DE)

‘It is more like a return to the organ’s historic origins, some 4.000 years ago in China, where mouth organs were built from bamboo pipes. It no longer has anything in common with a Christian church organ but is instead using its technology, which has been refined over hundreds of years.’
It is fascinating to listen to Berlin based artist Phillip Sollmann talking about the Modular Organ System project he cultivates together with fellow artist Konrad Sprenger – and which he will bring alongside other projects to the Monheim Triennale 2022.

The history of the Modular Organ System is a constant process of experiments and reflections. Or as Sollmann says: ‘It’s simply the result of our interests and work in recent years. We both experimented with mechanically produced sound, in my case with sirens and humming tops, and Konrad Sprenger has experimented with tune-able organ pipes in the past. We are rather defiant and keep on challenging all its aspects: Does it need to be like this? Do the pipes have to be built in this way? Is the use of lead really crucial? Or could we just use carbon which is not toxic and lightweight?’
It should have become clear by now that the Modular Organ System has nothing to do with a normal organ set-up. But to be absolutely sure we get this right, let´s listen to this specific sequence of the artists in dialogue in their studio in the Wedding district of Berlin:

Phillip Sollmann: ‘It originated in the Church, but has absolutely nothing in common with the religious idea behind the use of an organ during Mass. This is a very important aspect for us. We liberate the organ from its religious prison and let it enter the space.’

Konrad Sprenger: ‘Once all the pipes are set up and, theoretically, ready to go, it's like standing in front of an orchestra and saying: ‘The trombone should be a little higher, a little lower’. We can implement this on the spot, because we have the actual instruments there.’

Phillip Sollmann: ‘When hearing the air whistle across the tongue, it moves me in an entirely different way than when I hear the same sound through 20 speakers, even if it sounds almost as good. There's a kind of, um, perhaps it's even esoteric or something, there's a kind of a physicalness which otherwise I don't experience. That is really what fascinates both of us.’

Konrad Sprenger: ‘Every single time it is a process of understanding the system newly and by that slowly getting to whatever it is we want.’

So what to expect from the first appearance of the Modular Organ System in Monheim? Sollmann breathes in and states: ‘Monheim is going to be phenomenal, I must say.’

All quotes are from the Artist Talk with Thomas Venker as part of the 2021 Prequel issue.

Read more