Thriving inbetween

Charlotte Hug performing “Hetero Topos” with the Horizonte Detmold Ensemble in 2016. Photograph: © Lorenzo PusterlaHug has also been working with photographer and video artist Alberto Venzago, who made this portrait, for many years. Photograph: Alberto VenzagoCharlotte Hug. Photograph: Betty Fleck © ZHdKSolo performance at Lucerne Festival amid a Son-Icons installation Photograph: © Stefano Schröter“Voice & Body of Sound” Masterclass, China Academy of Art, May 2017. Photograph: © Huang Yue

While transdisciplinarity is on everyone’s lips, internationally acclaimed artist Charlotte Hug lives it: Combining her voice, the viola, and her sound drawings she creates a unique musical and scenic galaxy. The CAS Creation & Scenario in Music, which she heads, enables participants to continue developing their individual artistic idiom.



Annina Maria Jaggy: Why does interdisciplinary collaboration appeal to you?
Charlotte Hug: I have been thinking across and between disciplines for as long as I can remember. At the age of four, I was playing the violin, like my grandfather, who was a violinist at the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich. Throughout my childhood, I sang and drew, practised juggling and acrobatics, and wrote stage plays full of music. Later I studied music and fine arts. — Every medium reveals other contents. I always explore artistic ideas acoustically and visually, spatially, scenically, in all imaginable constellations. The interactions between diverse media are core to both my art and my teaching.

Who has inspired you as an artist?
Collaboration inspires me most. For instance, working with director Jossi Wieler, or in a string quartet with Phil Wachsmann, Marcio Mattos, and John Edwards. London’s improvisation scene is another seedbed for my art. I have worked with some of the pioneers of improvisation, like Phil Minton, Evan Parker, or Maggie Nichols. Inspiration often arises from challenges. When Larry Ochs’s Rova Saxophone Quartet from San Francisco commissioned a composition, I first had to learn the interactive musical notation that they were working with. This was so powerful that I subsequently expanded it into “Interaction Notation” for the intermedia context. This method is also very fruitful for my work with students.

You have also developed your own notation, “Son-Icons.” What do these sound drawings mean to you?
Dwelling on sounds, lingering in sound spaces, is my passion. My aim was and still is to draw even closer to them, to touch and watch them. So I began recording vibrations in concerts or on the underground, by hand, almost seismographically. Those were the beginnings of Son-Icons. Later I recorded imagined pieces of music and their structures. From these recordings arose a method of composition that enabled me to transpose musial works into intermedia contexts. The son-icons can be experienced on their own, as stand-alone works of art. They have been exhibited in galleries, off-spaces, and museums on several continents.

You were a Pro Helvetia Artist-in-Residence in Shanghai in spring 2017. How will contemporary Chinese art influence your work in Europe?
The topic of my residency in China was “Son-Icons in the Middle Kingdom.” One core area of my research was calligraphy, its various manifestations, and its related structures of thought. I spent the second half of my residency as Artist in Residence and Teaching Artist at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, one of China’s most important arts universities. I gave workshops and held a solo exhibition, which was constantly re-energised by concerts, dance events, and a symposium.

You are active on the international scene as an artist and lecturer. What does teaching at ZHdK mean to you?
I love to teach, to listen to students, and to think my way into their visions and projects. It’s important to explore and shape a core topic from many different perspectives. This involves contemplating students’ rough diamonds and giving them the tools to polish them or even to present an unfinished, “raw” idea with conviction. Accompanying such artistic processes has become increasingly important alongside my own work. I experience ZHdK as a hub of creativity, which thrives in-between the disciplines.

You will be directing the newly launched CAS Creation & Scenario in Music as of spring 2018. What can participants expect from the programme?
Essentially, it’s an international vocational course situated between music, sound, and performance within intermedia and scenic contexts. It welcomes musicians and professionals from across the disciplines. It’s particularly well suited to individuals seeking to discover new artistic terrain and to realise their ideas in an intermedia context. Anyone interested in finding out more about the programme is very welcome to contact me.

The ability to flexibly and expertly navigate between improvisation, composition, and musical-scenic approaches is becoming increasingly important in current musical practice. This practical arts programme also involves related forms of artistic expression such as light composition, body language, scenography, drawing, videos, and electroacoustic media. It provides inputs from theory and practice, individual coaching, and performance opportunities.
Annina Maria Jaggy ( is responsible for communications at ZHdK’s Further Education Centre.
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