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David Haines and Joyce Hinterding - MonoclineWhat does art sound like? How is listen­ing dif­fer­ent from look­ing? These are some of the ques­tions posed by the Duned­in Pub­lic Art Gallery’s Sound Full, cur­rently on at City Gal­lery Wel­ling­ton. The exhib­i­tion brings togeth­er 16 artists from Aus­tralasia; for me, there were many new names on the list. A num­ber of ideas run through the exhib­i­tion –sound and silence as media, what art sounds like, and the visu­al­isa­tion of sound. These ideas are thought through in paint­ings, digit­al images, record­ings, com­pos­i­tions, asso­ci­ations and sculpture.

View­ing the work, I was reminded how good con­tem­por­ary art makes us con­sider things with fresh eyes. This exhib­i­tion high­lights the aes­thet­ics of sound, which is to say the aes­thet­ics of the equip­ment used to play, record and amp­li­fy sound. Dials, CD discs, micro­phones, speak­ers, switches and the like fea­ture in many of the works. Some artists rein­vent this aes­thet­ic. Aus­trali­an artist Vicky Browne, for example, re-cre­ates a micro­phone and speak­er that allow the view­er to speak to the plants in her install­a­tion. The equip­ment is ‘woven’ from twigs, as if in some magic­al syn­ergy with the plant life.

Wel­ling­to­ni­ans Eugene Hansen and Jenny Gil­li­am, and their New York col­lab­or­at­or Dr Kron, present a work about the hys­teria of bird flu. A series of bird alarm clocks cov­ers the walls, timed to go off at 12pm for an hour each day. Vinyl sig­nage floats behind the clocks like rows of Pac-Men spoof­ing the imagery of health warn­ings, and about to ‘eat’ each oth­er up.

No sound exhib­i­tion is com­plete without Auck­lander and vet­er­an sound exper­i­ment­al­ist Phil Dad­son. His Rock Records (12rpm, White Island) visu­al­ises and ima­gines a his­tor­ic and cata­stroph­ic son­ic event with stone impres­sions, spec­tro­pho­to­met­er charts and sound.

            Sound Full also tries to ima­gine an aes­thet­ic for sound, and unsur­pris­ingly this, is in the most part, abstrac­tion. Volta and images from the Proof of Concept series by Aus­trali­an Robin Fox map sound with a music cre­ation applic­a­tion called MAX/MSP. The res­ult­ing pho­to­graph­ic and video images are like wild flor­al fire­works. Aus­trali­ans Joyce Hin­terd­ing and Dav­id Haines bring gam­ing engines into the gal­lery. In a Wii games-style exper­i­ence, the view­er drives through lat­tices and weird land­scapes but without the com­bat­ive or com­pet­it­ive aspects of a game. The only ‘levels’ are the portals and sound fields you can pop in and out of.

And for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, there are the two per­form­ance-based works – Voli­tion Bus by Sydney-based Kusum Nor­moyle, and Win­dow by Them­bi Sod­dell from Mel­bourne. Nor­moyle lit­er­ally screams at the gal­lery in her invest­ig­a­tion of noise activ­it­ies in nature and in pub­lic spaces. And boy, I know the feel­ing. Sod­dell, in con­trast, asks the view­er to climb into a ‘sound box’ in com­plete black­ness but sur­roun­ded by audio. Without light, I found myself listen­ing more intently. The creak­ing of my joints and the sound of my breath­ing joined the audio as part of a bod­ily exper­i­ence of sound.

 Sound Full opens at City Gal­lery Wel­ling­ton on 19 Octo­ber and runs until 9 Feb­ru­ary 2014.

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Novem­ber Art Recommendations

Put Pataka Art + Museum on your vis­it­ing list this month. There’s an inter­est­ing mix of exhib­i­tions on offer. Whakawhiti Aria: Trans­mis­sion includes Israel Birch, Shane Cot­ton and Bob Jahnke in a pro­ject of exchange with one anoth­er. Mir­anda Parkes’ She­bang fea­tures work developed while she was artist in res­id­ence at the Tylee Cot­tage in Whan­ganui. Eliza­beth Thom­son presents her Ker­ma­decs work in Trans­it­ive States. And Terry Stringer’s Face/Space includes fur­niture and sculpture.

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About Mary-Jane Duffy

Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essay­ist, and Fish­Head’s art colum­nist. She teaches poetry and aca­dem­ic writ­ing on the Whiyireia Cre­at­ive Writ­ing pro­gramme, tor­tur­ing stu­dents with half-rythmes and pan­toums, zom­bie haiku, and line breaks, ref­er­en­cing and struc­ture. Duffy has a back­ground in museum and gal­lery work, mak­ing a lucky escape from the base­ment of the City Gal­lery Wel­ling­ton in 2002 and open­ing the Mary New­town Gal­lery with Paula New­town in 2004. Art (across all the dis­cip­lines) feels like the closest thing she has to reli­gious exper­i­ences — see­ing, read­ing or hear­ing things that make her brain fizz.

Mary-Jane Duffy

Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essayist, and FishHead's art columnist. She teaches poetry and academic writing on the Whiyireia Creative Writing programme, torturing students with half-rythmes and pantoums, zombie haiku, and line breaks, referencing and structure. Duffy has a background in museum and gallery work, making a lucky escape from the basement of the City Gallery Wellington in 2002 and opening the Mary Newtown Gallery with Paula Newtown in 2004. Art (across all the disciplines) feels like the closest thing she has to religious experiences - seeing, reading or hearing things that make her brain fizz.

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