Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Aural Feast

Speed of Sound: Motion and Journeys
A festival of sound installations curated by Andrew Clifford
Gus Fisher
21 August - 24 August 2008

Aural art has long been embraced by the visual arts community and regularly heard in galleries, so it’s a great idea to have this sonic fest involving Auckland Uni’s School of Music and Elam Art School.

I couldn’t get to everything, and maybe Friday’s events were the pick of the crop, but here’s what I did check out:

In the small room on the right was Stephen Matthews’ a three part video installation which I quite liked, especially sections where the falling water of Waikoropupu Springs was an intense blur that looked like fabric. The sound, using the tāonga puoro (Māori flute) played by Richard Nunns, I found completely overwhelmed by the imagery. The flute as an instrument is too sweet for my tastes. Basically I dislike it. I’d prefer hearing the water by itself.

Kaleb Bennett’s Santiago tour in the big left-hand room I couldn’t get into. Maybe I hit a dull spot when I happened to walk in, but I’d rather see a Kiarostami movie (shot in a car) than hear a cabbie rattle on about a city’s tourist delights. I wasn’t prepared to invest a lot of time in it, but if I missed something good, then readers, tell me so.

The festival’s highlight was James McCarthy’s Recent History. On the main ‘dome-room’ wall, above the staircase that goes downstairs, McCarthy had positioned a large relief drawing made of tightened piano wire, depicting Rangitoto Island. He used this image as an instrument, first of all plucking and scraping the middle section with long poles that had metal tips, then the lefthand side with bluesy ‘bottlenecks’ or lipstick holders, and then later the right using a violin bow.
He proceeded to give a very accomplished recital using a couple of small fans on each side that strummed the wires, incorporating also some subtle Eno and Fripp type sound loops that repeated delicate little phrases.

Immediately after McCarthy’s Saturday morning performance, DJN played a work called PIANOKIK by repeatedly booting a white soccer ball at the back of the specially exposed wires of a stand-up piano. The artist got more variety from this technique than you might expect, emitting different degrees of resonating, rumbling, harmonic sound. It would be interesting to see what a professional football player (a fit person who can consistently kick with accuracy) could do with this instrument.

On Sunday afternoon in a large downstairs hall, Sam Hamilton performed SONAR REALIDAD INTERIOR: Mapping the Transient, using a large collection of field recordings he has made in the Amazon rainforest. He also incorporated modulating sonic structures - so it was really Attenborough meets Stockhausen, with the occasional Hendrix feedback coming out from under a mossy log. The experience was very sculptural as Hamilton moved sections of twittering and honking frog or bird noises, muffled Spanish voices, or roaring trains, around the six to eight speakers, exploring different intensities and mixes.

Exasperatingly short though the event was, mostly crammed around one weekend, this rich assortment of sonic delights was much enjoyed I’m sure by all who braved the miserable weather to explore it.

No comments: