Home > Past Exhibitions > A Generous Act: A collaboration with music.



Curated by Mark Garry

Participants include: Karl Burke (aka Karl Him), Daniel Bracken, James Broder, Slim Cessna, Sean Carpio, Eileen Carpio , Lucinda Chua, Nathan Hall, Nina Hynes, Jeffrey Inscho, Simon Jermyn, Fabien Leseure, Benoit Leseure and Karla Stauffer.

This exciting and innovative project brought together a remarkably talented group of musicians from several different countries, and with a broad range of musical genres and interests, many of whom had never met or played with each other. Over a period of 16 days in July 2010, the Mattress Factory converted the 4th floor of the museum into a practice area and fully functioning recording studio in which to collaborate. The residency culminated in a live performance of the music created during this time, and in July 2012 the full-length album, A Generous Act was released.

Click here to preview and purchase the album! All sales help support the Mattress Factory mission.

A Generous Act artists and musicians

The curator of this project, Mark Garry, spent two years visiting Pittsburgh while undertaking a curatorial residence at the Mattress Factory. In addition to becoming enlightened about Pittsburgh’s broad musical history, Garry became aware of the diverse group of remarkable musicians who work at the museum. He invited musicians from Berlin, Dublin, London, and Brussels to collaborate with these musicians enabling a unique situation where the staff is directly involved in generating what is presented at the museum. Mark Garry is particularly interested in the processes involved in generating culture and how this particular situation is reliant upon among other things an empathetic relationship being enabled where talents are simultaneously gifted between the musicians. The curator’s motivation to enable this music project at a visual arts institution stems from an interest in the manner in which cultural life today is composed of many complex layering of histories, geographic, and sociological influences. Garry is specifically interested in the way in which these complexities are present in music and the specific manner in which music has the fluidity to continue to subtly integrate many forms and styles and mixtures of influences. An exhibition followed this residency on the 4th floor of the museum. This exhibition is comprised of film documentation of the residency.

Moments. from A Generous Act on Vimeo.


A new film entitled “Music was free” was created by “A Generous Act” participants Sean Carpio and Lucinda Chua. This film synthesizes an interview of significant local African-American sculptor Thaddeus Mosley with influential photographs of jazz greats by the renowned Pittsburgh photographer Teenie Harris. In “Music was free”, Mosley – a jazz aficionado – discusses the Harris photographs which depict musicians performing in clubs and dancehalls of Pittsburgh’s Hill District – the musical center during the golden age of jazz. These photographs act as a catalyst for a broader discussion relating to Pittsburgh’s jazz history and the jazz scene that evolved in the Hill District during the middle of the last century. Carpio and Chua arranged a percussive interpretation of a segment of this interview into this film.

Film: 'Music was free'

“A Generous Act” also includes a series of texts that influenced the exhibition. While this project is in many ways situation responsive, the curator commissioned five new pieces of short fiction by young Pittsburgh writer Mark Mangini. These pieces of fiction were written in response to two existing pieces of literature. The first, “Out of this Furnace” is a historical novel by Thomas Bell that is set in the steel town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. This book follows the lives of three generations of a family, from their migration from Austria-Hungary in 1880 to the Second World War. The second book, “Paris Without Regret” by Ursula Broschke-Davis documents the experiences of four important African American artists – Jazz musicians Kenny Clarke and Donald Byrd and writers James Baldwin and Chester Himes, who move from the United States to Paris in the 1950s in search of artistic freedom. Mangini’s new pieces of fiction interplays between these two books, further elaborating the manner in which ideologies traverse the world and reflect the diversity of exchange this project encouraged. Also displayed on the gallery wall was an excerpt from a book by Irish-based curator John Hutchinson entitled “Questions of Time”, which influenced the title of this residency and exhibition.

The exhibition featured an archive of music by artists from Pittsburgh and music that was created in area. The hundreds of albums were kindly donated by music stores, musicians, producers, and music fans from the Pittsburgh region. The Pittsburgh-based music archive was presented to the public both visually and aurally via album covers throughout the gallery and several listening stations containing a wide variety of songs.

Visitors listen to Pittsburgh created music

Although this is the first time a museum has enabled a project of this kind, Mark Garry has been involved in several music related projects within his art practice during the past couple of years. These projects typically involve long periods of research that culminate in musical collaborations. Including a commissioned collaborative musical project entitled Sending letters to the sea. This ever-expanding collaborative group of musicians and artists continues to work together and respond to a new set of conceptual criteria with each specific project/opportunity. Musicians from this collaboration also performed at the London’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in the summer of 2010.

Update: Production and mastering of the A Generous Act album was completed in July of 2012. Click here to preview and purchase the album.

Final AGA

This project is organized by Mark Garry as part of the Mattress Factory's Curator-in-Residence Program made possible by generous support from The Fine Foundation. Additional funding provided by Culture Ireland, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Allegheny Regional Asset District, The Heinz Endowments and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

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