September 04, 2009

If Not This and

If Not This opened as the audience entered the building with Helmut Lemke's "if not this...WHAT THEN & if not at this address...WHERE ELSE?" - a very witty durational configuration of Helmut sitting on a chair with a bucket on his head, a high up bottle of water slowly dripping down onto the bucket. Audience members were invited to drop written comments into another bucket beside him (my comment pictured above)

He picked up each written comment and mumbled it from inside the bucket and attempted blindly to scrawl on the outside of the bucket. A very amusing piece.

Up in the main gallery, I welcomed the audience and introduced the rest of the artists.

First up Ben Gwilliam: he performed molto semplice e cantabile. Prior to the gig, he had made a mould of a vinyl disc of Beethoven's Sonata No 32 and from this created casts in ice. Taking these from a specially brought in fridge, he placed them on turntables: abstract and swirling, the rhythm created by spinning discs was hypnotic and vaguely African, melting created an extraordinary counterpoint, with different pick-ups subtly altering the pace and nuances of sound. Suddenly the ice grooves would give up and the 'instrumentation' would become harsher, more mechanical, urban and then it slowly faded to a recording akin to applause like ice being swept away or paper torn, melting unevenly the discs undulated to become more like massive waves breaking. A new disc was added, a re-invigorated rhythm this time sounding more like series of explosions offered as variations.

Matt Wand began his untitled installation by locating and then turning on reprogrammed Nintendo Gameboys attached to equally sized amplifiers, the texture of sound built a futuristic industrial landscape; circulating in some pre-determined order, Matt then lowered the amps into various sized glass jars which had the effect of shifting the soundscape into a musical register more melancholy, reminiscent of the opening organ music sequence progression down the hotel corridors of Last Year At Marianbad. Adding lids to the jars dimmed the tone colours and altering the lid positions and a shift in the pre-programmes slowed the movement, became more melodic drifts, it shifted again to be up lifting and full of hope and after hope, the amps now on top of the jars so that they added resonance which with the contrapuntal threads moving, surpassing hope to celebration akin to bells ringing on a Dickensian Christmas Day happy ending.

Lee Patterson began his performance by dropping bicarbonate soda into amplified glasses of water, this initiated a collage of sound-cloud samples of underwater pre-recordings of a local canal, a local pond and a nearby wire fence, with live action of poured water from a kettle, amplified springs and assorted pieces of metal pinged - an overlaying, a gentle throbbing like a breeze in motion on the basilar membrane bends stereocilia. I was reminded of John Cage's experience when trying out a soundproof isolation tank - he reported listening to the boom of his heart and the rush of his blood.

(Ben and Lee preparing before the gig)

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