The sound art is still minoritary and in its few manifestations complementary. It is true that by its naure and from its origin, this field has enabled a crossroads. It seems that the intersection with other fields and the visuality itself of the so-called visual arts appears as a distancing element from the framework of the main scene of contemporary art, moving away from the eye of the agents of the sector and even more, in a commercial context.
Four were the sound manifestations that I could see in ARCOmadrid, in an edition with one of its more tempered faces. The Filomena Soares Gallery in Lisbon presented a piece by Andreia Santana, a young Portuguese artist who in her latest series, Rumble Strip, has explored the sonority of metal through installations made of copper structures. Through an automated process, an intermittent sound is generated that responds to a pattern of movement marked by mechanization. A sound sculpture that reminds me of that beauty of the blackened that Tanizaki talks about. The patina of the objects speaks of the deep background that constitutes the expression of the life of things, objects and, ultimately, materials.
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Adrián Balseca, is another young Ecuadorian artist represented by the Madragoa Gallery who on this occasion offers a part of the report of a journey made by the British scientist and explorer Edward Whymper to reflect on the transformations of the capitalist and colonial systems in Latin America. A portion of the project The Unbalanced Land forms a cultural cartography of the island of Santay and is materialized in a sound installation that speaks of the coexistence between diverse political-economic and epistemic models through the analysis of the colonial “civilizing mission” and the indigenous substrate. The installation is composed of three wooden cylinders that, like those on the island of Santay, work as compressors, like steamrollers that flatten the earth. The island’s environment was recorded by means of recordings, which, filtered by Daniel Mancero, musically transfer the island’s soundscape to the piano. Using Japanese radio equipment, branded Sanyo, whose insignia is a representation of Goode’s world map, the landscapes sing by reconstructing material, discursive, cultural and ideological itineraries that assemble all the edges of the cultural context of the place.
Waltercio Caldas is part of the generation of Brazilian artists who made the first connections between art and sound. The musical composition, the noise or the silence are essential characters of his language. On this occasion, Anita Schwartz Gallery presented a piece composed of stacked metal cylinders that, through contact between them, generate sounds that respond to stable sound frequencies by expelling constant noise. The sculptural appearance of the installation, together with the translation of vibration into sound, ends up creating tension as well as relaxation.
Talk Tower Diego Rivera, by Ângela Ferreira, is the fourth and last sound work to be seen at the stand of the Pelaires Gallery within the great Madrid fair. Designed as a studio for a larger public sculpture, this work takes the form of a critical tribute to the controversial personal and professional association between Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo. The preparatory drawing of a cargo crane by Diego Rivera in California is a portion of the Unity of Pan America mural that represents the utopian dream of a united America, where the technological advances of the north were complemented by the art of the south and the spirituality of the Inuit and American Indians. The soundtrack consists of a reading of a letter from Frida Khalo addressed to Diego Rivera and culminates the piece as a sound complement.
The Hybrid fair, friendly, affordable and with the personality imprinted by its peculiar location, was one of the fairs that hosted the largest amount of sound art and experimental music. The lives curated by Continuo showed the electronic sounds of Paula Tweaker AKA Cruhda or those of Slvj with the visuals of Judith Adataberna and Rayuli respectively. All of this was wrapped up in a site-specific set in the hotel’s Santa Bárbara Room, where not even a pin would fit. Cruhda, offered us an aesthetic and concept that we could well place between Björk and Rosalía, while Slvj, presented with a more rhythmic tone supported by Rayuli‘s pseudo-natural environments, lines linked to hiphop with cunning and evocative samples, generating a captivating, melancholic atmosphere with a great discursive charge. The next day we were lucky enough to enjoy, thanks to the curatorship of Litorate, the live performance of Kamala Sutra, a young producer who has been part of Women in experimental music. At the fair she presented an audiovisual show exploring the frontiers between deeptechno, deephouse, abstract electronics and the most rebellious ambient sounds. The synths, dubs and the guitar of Glue Kids invaded the room keeping the line of the night with a minimalist sound intervention and less punk ambient than Kamala, but very catching and dynamic.
We were also able to find some works in the spaces of the Hotel Petit Palace Santa Barbara. Lamosa LAB brought to Madrid a single project by Raul Hidalgo called Aguas del Gran Sol, a speculative and imaginary story that tells the story of Bas Jan Ader’s last artistic project before he disappeared because of it. The Dutch artist began a project in 1975 that consisted of a journey from Massachusetts to the Irish coast in a 3 metre long boat. A few days after starting the journey, radio contact was lost and some time later the boat was found but not the creator’s body. Raul materializes certain attempts that make up an imaginary justification of what happened. Among the pieces that form the installation we find 3 vinyl players that simultaneously reproduce songs by María Callas, Agnes Balisa and Diamanda Galas embodied as sirens, managing to transmit an approach to the new story built by the artist under a mythological halo.
The drawings and sound installation by Julia Tazreiter and Hui Ye, were selected to be part of the Displaced 2020 project. The work called “NO”, uses this morpheme as the basis of its discourse. The couple of artists found a great potential in the minimal unity of language, trying to distance themselves from its usual use as a signifier and meaning, in order to explore all the possibilities of this morpheme, beyond conventional perception. Phonetic poetry is here the sound medium that reverberated during the three days of the fair on the hotel stairs.
In ArtMadrid, the proposal for a Proyector curated by its director Mario Guriérrez Cru, was in my opinion, the most enriching initiative of the fair. A very complete proposal around video creation, action art and performance. In its stand there were projections, presentations, meetings and actions that energized a fair marked by the decorative. In terms of sound, Eunice Artur and Bruno Gonçalves presented Partidura, a project that explores the relationship between sound and plastic manipulation. Using improvisation and direct action, they recorded the sound generated in a graphic way “an object enclosed in itself, the score”. Therefore, the artistic object takes the form of a score or reference for the musician, and the music constructs the artistic object, entering into a game of simultaneity that proposes new ways of reading sound and materializing it.
It is clear how sound art still lives at an intersection: sculpture, poetry, music, performance or installation were some of the disciplines that were paired with the few sound pieces that were seen and heard during the Madrid Art Week. The curious thing to note is that all the ARCO proposals came from Portuguese or Brazilian galleries, except in the case of Pelaires who, despite being from Mallorca, presented a work by an artist originally from Maputo but living in Lisbon. In the same way, the proposal of Projector in Art Madrid also came from Portuguese artists..
This discipline left little trace among the more than 10,000 works of art that travelled to the Spanish capital, although as a human being I apologise if any of them escaped my eyes or ears. In any case, it is clear that it remains a minority and complementary speciality, and continues to be the weakest in the contemporary art sector in its most commercial aspect. Years ago the trend was video, last year it was textiles. Perhaps next year it will surprise us.