Saturday, June 15, 2013

SOUND TO LIGHT-Crossing Borders

By Thomas Connelly

Last night I Went to the opening night of Sound to Light - Crossing Borders (STL). As well as the exhibition, which runs until June 23 at the Salamanca Arts Centre, I saw some audio/visual performances.
Image courtesy of www.soundtolight.net

STL is described as a dynamic, playful, chaotic, experimental project. A social art project that seeks to transcend boundaries between disciplines, but more importantly - and something that can only be done at this time in history - seeks to transcend physical location. This could not have been done before the invention of high-speed networking. Like the ancient shamans who could be in two places at once, nowadays artists are able to perform bi-location. Optical fibre being part of the infrastructure of modern shamanistic practice the name of the exhibit takes on a special meaning.

Up Woobys Lane, through the courtyard, into an industrial revolution rabbit warren of an old warehouse. Low skeletal ceiling, silver insulation skin exposed. Rendered sandstone,
convict-hewn blocks, photographers moving about for a better composition. Pale smart phone light, apparitions in the crowd, petals on a wet, black night. Electronic equipment humming, buzzing a series of sounds and beats, screens projecting the present and past in various combinations. Strange generated life forms dancing and swirling. Art, as Andy Warhol said, is anything you can get away with; and everything we do, as John Cage said,
is music.

Beyond the large performance space, a series of connected rooms of various installations. I would suggest visiting the www.soundtolight.net website to get more detailed information about the artworks. I can only describe my impressions, and what I saw. With much happening not everything could be given the attention required, and not everything can be properly critiqued.

In one room amplifiers, wires and a small wooden table. On the table Oscar Ferreiro & Heath Brown assembled small pieces of bone. The geometry of innocent flesh with electronic widgets attached to clean white bones. Small motors recorded, manipulated sounds filled the little room. The natural and the artificial, prehistoric flutes made of bone meshed with the most up to date technology. On a stand in a hallway a simple music box, a twin in Melbourne, moves so slowly that one can not detect any movement. Played back as a time-lapse video the movement becomes apparent, the structure is revealed.

Like Chinese guerrillas and the peasant class, like fish in the sea, we move through light and sound. Moving from room to room. Agreeing with the Dickensian atmosphere of the old warehouse art gallery was a room designed by Dylan Sheridan & Laura Hindmarsh.
This was a flickering magic lantern room of images thrown onto thin screens in the darkness. This created a melancholy feeling, of being a young child, a poor Edwardian urchin, sneaking a peek into the nickelodeon.

Chris Vik, of Ethno Tekh played his Kinectar. He has written some software to interface with the Kinect sensor, allowing artists to create music by gesture alone, wearing special gloves. A very cool idea indeed, bringing sound to the language of gesture.

If Sound to Light - Crossing Borders was meant to be a dynamic, playful, chaotic, experimental social art project, then one is forced to admit that they have succeeded. This type of technological art, this type of social art, this type of shamanistic bi-location will only extend and grow over the next period. In the way that the continual revolution of capitalism is threatening many old style business models, so too is the industrial scientific revolution forcing us to revalue art and the production of art. Recalling Socrates and his contrasting writing to the living word of knowledge. So we must ask if technology is as well, a pharmakon? Is technology a remedy? Or is it a poison? Or, most likely, is it both at once?

Exhibition June 16-23 10am-9pm SAC.
Presented by Salamanca Arts Centre + Dark Mofo in association with 313RGB

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