9th May 2007 — 17th June 2007
installation probably works best on an unclouded, bright day, not
unlike the one on which I visited. This exhibition is after all about
atmospheric conditions, so once this has been registered, what is
happening outdoors becomes of consequence to what is inside.
The gallery is, as usual, divided into two spaces. The first space is predominated by a largish text piece on the wall. It is the transcription of one of the interviews Hannah Rickards made with people of Alaska and Canada about their experience, physical and theoretical, of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). The show concerns their unusual experiences of being able to hear the lights rather than the usual visual encounter, and I use the term loosely, because its quite uncommon even to witness this (son et) lumière anyway.
It is this phenomenological freak of nature that is the crux of this exhibition at the Showroom Gallery. However, the feeling of being displaced by light and circumstance is one that is somewhat replicated by this installation, even though there are only three elements that transpire to do this:
1. The three monitors in place in a triangular formation alternating with their screens of blue, red and green.
2. The speakers set into the plinths that shoulder the monitors, giving bursts of these recorded interviews, pauses and sometimes overlapping each other.
3. The reflective-tinted film adhered to the large window at the front of the gallery.
The window coating has the dual effect of letting you look out onto the Bethnalites admiring their slinky reflections, whilst remaining unobserved, but also in creating an uncomfortable, heavy light, like how I imagine it is for my fish in their bowl.
Also, when someone comes into the gallery, you are made aware of the utter contrast between the two light environments. When you finally leave you have to suffer a purple tinge to the world outside for several minutes.
So, the text on the large piece of paper is a continuous stream of recollection that contains elements such as: '...if you crack snow or you crack aluminium foil or you take tinsel or, it it it's, but it was fast... etc' and recalls obviously Fiona Banner and her film transcriptions. Although it could feel like an unnecessary/necessary saleable kind of item it is a vital introduction to the show. This is because it serves to remind how imaginative we have to become when trying to describe something as chimerical as the 'sound of light'. At the same time the interviewees descriptions can seem prosaic and fairly non-descript - umming and arring - like people trying to describe the supernatural and their ideas of encounters with 'ghosts' and 'aliens'.
This mode of understanding nature from a non-scientific stance is applied to Hannah Rickards' previous works such as Thunder (2005) and Birdsong (2002). Both pieces concern themselves with recreating a 'natural' sound by other means, by music or the human voice. At The Showroom it is achieved through language, and all the better for not being replicated by anything other than words.
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