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.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Here is a review of a 'sound related' exhibition at The Physics Room by Andrea Bell in Christchurch

Marco Fusinato, Bruce Russell & Adam Willetts: Towards a Cinema of Pure Means
Curated by Bruce Russell
The Physics Room, Christchurch
27 January – 28 February 2010

Bruce Russell will be known to many as a member of internationally renowned noise band Dead C, and A Handful of Dust, as well as head of labels Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum. He is also a practicing visual artist and regular music writer. The release of a collection of his writings Left-handed blows: writing on sound, 1993–2009 through Clouds Publishing was loosely coincided with this exhibition.

Melbourne based Marco Fusinato is also an internationally renowned art/noise practitioner, and more recently known as a curator of experimental music through his involvement in shows such as 21:100:100 One Hundred Sound Works by One Hundred Artists from the 21st Century last year at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne.

Adam Willetts too, has exhibited nationally and internationally, and performs regularly in Christchurch. He has been experimenting with hi-tech and DIY electronics since the late 90s.

In the exhibition’s accompanying essay, curator Bruce Russell was careful to point out that this was “not a ‘sound art show’” but rather an “assemblage of cultural production related to sound.” Russell was also careful to delineate the arbitrary distinctions we make between different artistic media, and between sound and music. Those that came expecting to hear sound art pieces may have been disappointed. Rather than presenting the kind of work that the three artists are best known for, the show largely figured of works that emerge around these practices.

The exhibition spanned both of The Physics Room’s galleries. Russell’s two video works were, in the foyer: A report on the construction of situations (1957) of single-instrument improvisations staged in a shop window; and in the screening gallery: Runway, a PowerPoint presentation of Russell’s photos set to a Dead C score - which easily sustained audiences. On the far wall of the main gallery, Russell installed a range of album covers and sleeve work relating to his, and other Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum releases. Next to this a tape player mounted to a plinth played a loop of loose tape-ribbon.

Alongside these, Fusinato’s Mass Black Implosion (for Anestis Logotheits) consisted of a series of five works on paper in the form of framed ink drawings on musical scores. A homage to Greek composer Anestis Logotheits, these sound pictures complimented Russell’s design work and situated them within a wider genealogy of avant garde composers. However, given Fusinato’s reputation as a leading experimental musician, they were a little underwhelming.

Willetts’ contribution, 34 Day Solo for Solarbotic Guitar consisted of a miniature solar powered robot, inside a clear plastic globe, atop saucer, balanced precariously on the strings of an amplified Dan Electro guitar. Every movement led to an amplified vibration that reverberated throughout the gallery; a playful (and highly technical) work.

Overall Towards a Cinema of Pure Means succeeded as a document of the creative practices of some of New Zealand and Australia’s leading experimental musicians. Yet I couldn’t help but feel it compromised the very media it stood to represent, displaying on the one hand - a survey of Christchurch based sound art, and on the other - a visual art exhibition by sound artists.

Images from top to bottom:

Installation panorama. Image courtesy of the artists and The Physics Room. Photo: Mark Gore.

Russell...a wager on the passing of time... 2009, (and two details) mixed media installation of mass produced sound artefacts and tape loop. Image courtesy of the artist and The Physics Room. Photo: Mark Gore.

Marco Fusinato Mass Black Implosion (Agglomeration, Anestis Logothetis) 2007, ink on archival facsimile of score. Image courtesy of the artist, Hamish McKay Gallery and The Physics Room. Photo: Mark Gore.

Adam Willetts 34 Day Solo for Solarbotic Guitar 2010, mixed media. Image courtesy of the artist and The Physics Room. Photo: Mark Gore.

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