Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Clicks & Pops, Sound Art: New Only In Name (Exhibition Review)

Clicks & Pops features sound art by Clint Sleeper, Tohm Judson, Jean-Paul Perrotte & Robert Morrison, and student works such as my own. It is in the Student Galleries South location in the Jot Travis building.

What grabbed my attention walking in was seeing Clint's "We are Singing As Softly As We are Able" video projected on the wall and throwing dirt at musical instruments. Clint plugged in a guitar and bass and manipulated the settings while smearing and chucking dirt at them. Since the dirt sort of scattered when it left his hands, the impact on the electric instruments didn't make as jarring of a noise as I would've expected. They were pretty subtle but it's when he smeared the dirt along the necks was when it could really be heard. The dirt was also pretty muted when it was thrown at the floor tom and snare. It could be heard in the beginning because they were the first things that Clint threw dirt at. The electric feedback drowned out the drums after that point. 

I found the performance piece interesting and view it from a perspective of his annoyance with music. There may be some frustration with music in general and instead of smashing instruments like a rockstar, he's throwing the dirt at it. It could possibly stem from growing up in the Gardnerville area where you're surrounded by dirt and the possible futility of coming from such an agricultural place. I'd really like to see the piece on it's own in a big space because the dome speakers that hung down made it difficult to hear the piece but I understand that it needed to be isolated from the rest of the exhibit. I just wish it were louder or maybe went in its own area like Judson's had. I also liked the installation of the dirt piles, snare, and small amps that replicated his video. Nice touch.

Jean-Paul Perrotte and Robert Morrison's "Structures In Microtonal Harmony" were the next main focus of the exhibit. Morrison cast bronze bowls with minute tuning differences and Perrotte used Arduino technology to get metal to strike the bowls at random times through Max MSP. Both artists were interested in how the bowls' soundwaves combined in space and how interesting they sounded because of their distinction. The random bowl strikes meant that there were thousands of combinations of soundwaves that could coexist and the way they lingered in the space made each sound unique. 

On the opposite wall, Perrotte and Morrison made manual strikers that the audience could interact with. The idea of play and interaction interested both artists and having something tangible that could produce so many varieties of sound was instrumental in making the piece successful. I really liked standing in the middle of the bowls and hearing people play around. The high pitches would make my ears perk up and my eardrums would vibrate and it seemed like I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. It was a weird sensation for sure.

The student pieces were things I've seen before and my work was included. That was pretty neat seeing my own project in there and having my name on the wall. Perrotte's "Composition for EEG and Two Computers" video was interesting because his partner, Caplovitz, would play the brain effects and manipulate them live based on the EEG and through Max MSP while Perrotte would control the audio portions. The original performance was done live and was too long to put in Clicks & Pops so he edited it down to a few essential parts and it was really neat. Definitely one of the most interesting sound/video projects I've ever seen and I got to take a class from this guy; how cool! 

The final piece in the exhibition was a video and sound installation by Carol Burch-Brown and Tohm Judson called, "Salt Marsh Suite." The audio was mixed with intensive detail and each channel originally had its own speaker. In this exhibit, they cut the massive number of speakers down to seven. The video contained overlays of animals, scenery, and rowing down salt marches in North Carolina. The effects were pretty interesting and the way each video interacted with one another had a unique sense of play going on.

I originally thought that the "clicking" sounds were obnoxious and wondered why those were included but Perrotte explained that they were actually recordings inside the marshes and that they were crabs fighting and moving around. That made the sounds cool but sort of removed the "reality" from the piece because the video's perspective of being above water means that you wouldn't hear the crabs below the raft. Regardless, the crab audio added to the record of things that existed in the salt marsh environment before it drys up within the next few decade.

The gallery spaces on campus are pretty small and my only desire would've been to see more. I guess that makes the exhibition effective in instilling in me the desire to seek out more sound art. The pieces were really inspirational and gave me some new outlooks on where I could take my own art and expand my realm of capabilities. I'm honored to be included in this gallery, no matter how small, and even more honored to have had the faith put in me to produce work that is worthy of inclusion with these brilliant minds.

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