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, March 26, 2009

Warm but not cosy

Richard Francis: Warmth
A Centre For Art (Elliott St Apartments, Level 2, Rm.206)
25 March - 11 April 2009

Richard Francis is a Kiwi sonic artist, one of two who recently performed in Broken Fall, in St. Paul St. This ACFA show is quite different from that live work - except I do remember he crumpled some dry paper into a microphone and recorded it, and that’s a good connection. Here he presents a vinyl record (33 in size but 45 in speed) on a battered turntable with adjustable amp and a couple of old black speakers. It’s up on a table. You play it and listen when you arrive.

The recording is a one sided pressed disc documenting another one sided blank disc being played on another turntable. You can hear lots of static and increased crackling and low rumbles over its six minute duration, and a certain amount of Wellesley St. car noise seeping in as well.

Each time you play it the needle wears the grooves down a little more. The intensity of the static noise and various electronic resonances alters to increase next time.

I’m not sure how interesting Francis’s project is as sonic art, though I’m delighted ACFA has presented this so I can think about it. Maybe repeated playing causes it to grow on you as you pick up more layers of eggshell crunching and new frequencies. I do like the idea of making such a recording. However whether many would listen to it for pleasure or genuine interest, I don’t know.

The sounds though are hard to ignore: they never could be background. Though not loud they nevertheless are ‘in your face.’ They put you on the spot and are confrontational. But maybe that is a misreading. Maybe some find them soothing and uplifting, even exuberant. Maybe.

The title comes from the often stated belief than vinyl makes a warmer sound than digital, that CDs sound icier. I’m not convinced about this ‘temperature’ claim myself, though I recognise CDs have a much lower frequency range and recorded music has suffered for that. A thoughtful heading for an unusual aural experience.

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