18 February — 19 March 2011
The Half-Shut Door: Artists’ Soundtracks
The exhibition inverts the relationship between vision and sound, with priority being given to the auditory. The visual is deliberately conspicuous by its absence leaving the sound to create a space for the audience to explore.
The curators developed the concept of the listener’s space by presenting four artists’ soundtracks that have been cut from the artists’ videos. Heavy black fabric wraps the gallery, containing the sound and cocooning the spectator in the blacked-out gallery. The music is directional, located before the audience in the manner of an orchestra, lending it greater formality.
Dryden Goodwin’s (Britain) evocative score, taken from the video ‘Flight’, relates an escape from everyday urban reality toward an expanded landscape, alternating between breathless forward motion and stillness, and punctuated with countless drawings made by the artists that animate the moving images.
João Onofre (Portugal) presents the music track from his video ‘Catriona Shaw sings “Baldessari sings LeWitt’” re-edit, “Like a Virgin” extended version’ in which Sol LeWitt’s seminal text ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’ (1969) previously sung by John Baldessari in 1978 are rescored to the tune of Madonna’s classic floor filler ‘Like a Virgin’. The double reenactment, a celebration of an unlikely union, namechecks two key conceptual artists, whose high culture presence provides the meat in Madonna’s perfect white pop sandwich.
‘A Production of Nothing: Part 1’ by Stefan Brüggemann (Mexico) follows a beautiful woman as she travels through an unnamed city. The aimlessness of this derive is echoed by Christian Vogel’s minimal soundtrack of ambient Electronica.
The film-installation ‘The Sea of Tranquillity’ by Hans Op de Beeck (Belgium), scored by Sam Vloemans and the artist, presents an elegiac impression of a ghostly cruise liner. The moving images combine CGI with live actors and provide a tantalizing glimpse of life on board, which is rendered here as an elegiac sound-score combining classical music, jazz, minimalism and ambient.
Soundtracks and soundscores form part of the architecture of larger works, they enhance and complete cinematic experience. Synchronised to the main event on a screen, the score is essential yet secondary, always a servant but seldom a master. According to Pierre Bourdieu, music escorts and punctuates the visible. When hearing a filmscore as an accompaniment to a film, the music is subsumed into the visual; Theodor Adorno and Hans Eisler argue that it becomes the sound of the picture. The medium of cinema outlines a clear hierarchy between the visual and the sonic, where sight clearly dominates sound. But what happens if the composition is separated from the dominant vision? Do we simply approach it as a pure musical experience, or do we respond to the narrative principle of the score and try to fill in its missing counterpart? Perhaps the listener does neither: given the non-illustrative nature of sound (Foley art provides the exception) it would be futile to reconstruct a story, since the action would be reduced to its most basic and banal elements; yet to let go entirely of the cinematic underpinnings also impoverishes the score. Rather, what comes into play is a third space that shows an awareness of both sound and displaced image. It is the condition of absence that characterises this kind of space, at once full and empty.