- Arsenal: Artists Exploring the Potential of Sound as a Weapon* Alma Enterprises, London,*23 June to 6 August 2006
The chilling images of “detainees” at Guantánamo Bay have become familiar enough. The kneeling figures, bound at the hands and feet, gagged, blindfolded, and often with hearing restricted have raised the tenor of discussions concerning the use of torture and the concept of “sensory deprivation.” Variations on techniques of “sensory deprivation” can involve the direct overload of one or more of a detainee’s senses, for example, by the subjection to persistent loud noise. An exhibition at Alma Enterprises Gallery in London presents a timely response, focussing attention on both the idea of sound as a weapon and the potential of sound to be used as a weapon for artistic agitation. Even though the literal allusions to current military offensives in the group exhibition are few, the thoughtful and varied selection of sound and multimedia works lead us to think about the very possibility of sound weapons and their alternate non-militaristic uses. In this exhibition, it is the potential violence of the sonic weapon—or the act of bodily disturbance through noise—that is repeatedly evoked.
At first these different sonic studies present something of a cacophony within the small space of the gallery. While this can be a typical limitation of a multimedia group exhibition, the noisy jostle creates a tension that is invoked even before we enter the gallery. We are ambushed at the threshold by Pablo Gav’s Music Pissing on Flies Shitting on Bombs (2006), which is intended as a “peaceful and yet aggressive prelude for the visitor.” Its contradictory and incoherent montage of piano and violent, electronic sound emanates from speakers sitting on top of the Alma Enterprises sign at the gallery door; the multivalent inbetweeness of the installation underlines the tension in the piece.
In Tillmann Terbuyken and Thomas Baldischwyler’s Untitled (2006), visitors have the opportunity to interact with the work. The circular sculpture mounted to the wall is connected to a floor piece which, when stepped on, releases an aggressive noise that drowns out Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing permanently from a speaker within the sculpture. The work provokes the visitor’s desire to interrupt the field of sound momentarily with a disruptive intervention of noise that disturbs the other visitors’ experiences. However, the repetition of the noise created episodically by new visitors becomes part of the general din.
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About this Article
Offensive Art was first published in Fillip 4 in Fall 2006. For more articles from this issue, see the Table of Contents.
Susanna Haddon is an artist and writer living in London, England. She is currently thinking about re-enactments in contemporary art for her London Consortium Masters dissertation.
The views expressed in Fillip are not necessarily those of the editorial board or the Projectile Publishing Society.
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