Sunday, September 1, 2013


One of the great things about living close to NYC is one's proximity to cultural events that may resonate with a good number of artists in the area.  In this case the word "resonate" should be taken literally,  as this is billed as MOMA's first exhibition of sound art and is subtitled "A Contemporary Score".  The irony here is that this kind of stuff has been around for nearly a century (see Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori from 1917),  and is certainly part of a vernacular that my be little heard consciously,  but has exerted a profound influence over the arts,  sound design and advertising. Sound art should be understood as a hybrid form,  one that combines noise,  the visual arts,  psychoacoustics,  electronics,  field recordings,  and the list goes on.  Perception, immersion, acceptance and understanding of this type of work certainly comes from a wide range of perspectives including  conceptual art,  visual scores and performance,  sculpture,  dada,  circuit bending,  installation and process art.  Those who expected a "musical" experience were surely disappointed,  as this was a liminal journey where one stepped through  audio and visual cues.  The problem that I encountered at this exhibition was crowd noise,  which made subtle listening an impossibility.  I must say that I quite enjoyed  Tristan  Perich's "Microtonal Wall"(bottom) which combined 1500 tiny speakers arranged in a lovely minimalist grid whose frequencies changed as viewers moved around it, creating their own "composition".  In most pieces there was a balance between materiality and non-materiality,  culminating in Camille Norment's "Triplight" (top),  a piece that made no sound at all.  It implied place through shadowed shapes suggesting a ribcage,  the primal origin of our sounds.  I enjoyed its visual pun too,  as in "John Cage".  I think he'd have liked it too.

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