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 ABOUT MICHAEL SPALT AND GUITaRT

“I believe humans need authenticity, they crave it, even if they may not be aware of this. In today’s world, where so little is authentic and real, our feeling for what authenticity actually consists of is difficult to discern sometimes.  And in its place often things that are made to look like “real” things substitute (the whole “relic” boom is a good example - buying something new that is made to look old and well-played speaks to that. You’re buying fake history and fake authenticity - ironic in a way!).  

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Here’s where my work comes in. A lot of what I use are found old materials, from old shops, flea markets, flotsam from the beach, detritus from the street.  I find things that have been discarded, that have a history, are much more interesting and valuable than new things which still have to acquire depth and spirit, which are still “flat".  

These old things may have been thrown away, considered to have lost their value and function, but they have acquired an identity during their journey. They have “lived”.  That is what I look for when I search them out. In my work I try to imbue my pieces with emotion and I try to evoke feelings in the beholder (sometimes they can be a bit creepy, but that is a true response and real).

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The process of assembling the objects, of working with the resin, is actually quite alchemical - it involves fire, meditation, and thus the transformation of the energies contained in the individual objects, weaving their charge into a new context.  Giving these things a new purpose, I recombine them into a new matrix. On some level it’s akin to an exorcism, freeing the objects from the ghosts of the past, letting a new individual emerge. I don’t try and negate what they have lived through, they still bear the marks and scuffs of an authentic existence; indeed, that is what makes them so special and unique.  They are simply reborn in the totality of the new story of the instrument.

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For example, in the ‘Babe’ and ‘Pierrot’ Series — only very few of the little dolls I used were purchased new.  Most of the dolls are actually from the 18th or 19th century, bisque toys common to that era.  There was a stock of these from two old ladies at the Vienna flea market, who ran a doll shop and restored and repaired old dolls. I used quite a few of them in various instruments, and the character “Babe” has gone through several adventures and situations in the course of a series of “Babe” guitars featuring her.

 As the instrument is played, a new charge will be built up; as it ages, it will acquire a new identity.  Guitars can change quite a bit as they are played by various musicians throughout their history - it’s an interplay between the inspiration and the tone the instrument provides and the music that is created on it.  It’s the reason I love my job so much, because having finished the instrument, the blank canvas, so to speak, I know it is just starting on a journey of its own, and what comes out often is a delightful surprise…” (2018)

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“When I pick up objects, or pieces of wood for my guitars, I look for something that sparks my interest. A shape, a color, and something else: there is a history attached to objects, people have used them, loved them, discarded them; that history is what makes them special, it confers authenticity. I believe that we need to recycle things (we use sustainably harvested or reclaimed timber a lot), and part of my attraction to found objects is the reclamation of their value beyond their immediate usefulness. I look for the poetry of objects, to weave them into my pieces and let them tell their story.” (2001)

Michael Spalt