Curatorial Introduction
Pause: Billy Bultheel & James Richards
Workers in Song
7–9 June 2024


Curator: Léon Kruijswijk
Curatorial Assistant: Nikolas Brummer


<p>Billy Bultheel & James Richards, <em>Workers in Song</em>, 2023. Videostill, performance documentation, WIELS, Brussels. Courtesy the artists</p>

Billy Bultheel & James Richards, Workers in Song, 2023. Videostill, performance documentation, WIELS, Brussels. Courtesy the artists


Workers in Song is the result of a collaboration between composer Billy Bultheel (b. 1987, BE) and visual artist James Richards (b. 1983, UK), who found one another based on an expansive approach towards their disciplines. Bringing together archival film and music with newly created footage and scores, their performance is haunted by the histories of occult photography and spectral music and is replete with references to their previous works as well as more quotidian pleasures such as online hook-ups, subcultures of bygone eras, and the darker dimensions of romantic subjectivity. Workers in Song questions the boundaries between liveness and the prerecorded, between presence and absence, between memories, ghosts, and the archive.  

Conceived as an open-ended, modular structure, Workers in Song operates as a constantly evolving organism, which adapts to the specific context of each presentation. The version at KW considers the vastness of its main hall and plays with those characteristics that make it distinct from yet another interchangeable white cube. Informed by the early days of cinema, when silent films were conceived to be presented with live music, and more contemporary forms including mixtapes or expanded cinema events, Bultheel and Richards present the dynamic musical score as a setting for a series of performative and filmic events. Newly produced music and film material—sending viewers through nocturnal landscapes and dystopian, post-industrial interiors—is put into dialogue with poems, films, and scores by other artists—without subsuming any part into a uniform whole. As such, the artists offer a glimpse into the references and sources of inspiration and appreciation that have imprinted themselves on them.


Workers in Song takes apart the seamless and unified apparatus of the cinema or chamber concert and turns itself into a musical Frankenstein. The work’s episodic structure invites viewers to bring their own experiences to the table and connect the dots, allowing each element to smudge and blur one’s perception. Both lusciously sentimental and abrasive with distortion, many elements insistently return to the porous line between inside and outside, the self and others, the body and the world.


James Richards lives and works between Berlin and London. Richards’s expanded practice examines themes of obsession, desire, and technology through archival research, found footage, and extensive collaboration. Addressing the relentless flow of imagery in the twenty-first century, Richards’s work carves out a space where personal politics and digital materiality meet.

The artist’s recent solo exhibition projects include Internal Litter, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin (2022); When We Were Monsters, Haus Mödrath, Kerpen (2021); Alms for the Birds, Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2020); SPEED 2, Malmö Konsthall (2019); and SPEED, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (2018). Selected group exhibitions include Penumbra, Fondazione In Between Art Film, Venice (2022); The Botanical Mind, Camden Art Centre, London (2020); the Whitney Biennial, New York (2017) and Less Than Zero, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2016). In 2017, Richards represented Wales at the 57th Venice Biennale with the exhibition Music for the Gift and was awarded the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2024 in Berlin.


Billy Bultheel lives and works between Berlin and Brussels. Bultheel’s work as an experimental composer and performance artist bridges contemporary composition and techniques and traditions of European Medieval and Renaissance polyphonic music. His music explores performance and installations, often site-specific, leaving the constraints of the concert hall behind in order to find new territory for musical experiences. The musicians become performers moving through sound tropes, interacting with architecture, sculpture, and custom-made instruments.

The artist’s recent projects include The Thief’s Journal, Berlin Atonal (2023); Workers in Song, WIELS, Brussels (2023); Mt. Analogue, Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection, Paris (2023); Athens Songs I-IV, 7th Athens Biennial, Athens (2021); UNTER, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2021); Songs for the (2021); The Minutes of Olomouc, PAF, Olomouc (2020) and When Doves Cry, Schinkel Pavillon Berlin, (2019). Bultheel studied composition at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague, The Netherlands and performance and choreography at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Gießen, Germany.


The Pause series is envisioned as a platform to punctuate the program by presenting singular artworks for a short period of time in order to bridge relationships between the past, present and future.


Performance Credits
Artists / Directors / Producers: Billy Bultheel & James Richards
Performers: Alexey Kokhanov (voice, piano), Adam Sinclaire (flute), Alina Anufrienko (cello), Clara Levy (violin), Julie Michael (viola)
Sound engineers: Christophe Albertijn, Francisco Petrucci

Curator: Léon Kruijswijk
Curatorial Assistant: Nikolas Brummer


Film Credits
Filmed appearances: Sebastian de la Cour (bariton), Sara Neidorf (percussion), Adam Sinclaire (flute)

DOP: Tom Rosenberg

Second camera: Milan Daemgen

Sound recordist: Simone Antonioni

Sound Design: Max Bloching

Key grip: Braden Harris

Production Assistants: Lea Hopp, Sinaida Michalskaja

Film locations: anorak,, Berlin

Production manager: Johanna Markert


KW Credits
Head of Production: Mathias Wölfing
Technical Management: Wilken Schade
Head of Installation and Media Technology: Markus Krieger
Installation: KW Installation Team
Press and Communication: Anna Falck-Ytter, Marie Kube, Luisa Schmoock
Text: Billy Bultheel, Léon Kruijswijk, James Richards
Proofreading and Translation: Simon Wolff, Sylvia Zirden, Georg Hiller von Gaertringen
Graphic Design: Marc Hollenstein
Interns: Alena Beyer, Swantje Eden, Pauline Jacobs, Salome Klotz, Robin Schmitt, Mattis Thomsen
AV: Eidotech, WEMME Events


With thanks to the Estate of Warren Sonbert and Gartenberg Media Enterprises for the screening permission of Warren Sonbert’s work. 


Co-commissioned by WIELS Centre for Contemporary Art, Batalha Centro de Cinema, Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art.




Funded by the Government of Flanders




Supported by