17th April 2007 — 29th April 2007
the nucleus of the Serpentine Gallery is Clamor, an installation by
collaborative artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Upon
entrance to the space I am caught in the crosshairs of a shiny silver
trumpet, which pokes out at eyelevel from a huge, rocky, futuristic
looking bunker. A forty-minute musical score composed by the artists
emanates from the structure: a loud mishmash of trumpets, flutes,
bagpipes, guitars and drum rolls - a mixture of victory, triumph, glory
and sadness bounces off the walls.
The ear muffled gallery invigilators stand sentry over the hollow structure, which is simultaneously organic and man-made. It reminds me of museum dioramas that represent moments from the Great Wars. As I walk around the work I notice another trumpet, a flute, a full drum kit and a trombone. The instruments adopt human qualities, all keeping a watchful eye from inside the structure.
The surrounding gallery spaces are physically empty, the huge exposed windows looking out into Hyde Park, the rooms are drenched with the sound and music from the central bunker space. Walking though these spaces allows you to step back from the intensity of the sound and distinguish the mangle of instruments. I can hear the bagpipes playing 'Scotland the Brave'; this quickly moves into a tuneful flute concerto, which slows down into a Wagnerian drum roll and a clap of cymbals. Then the music stops. I am suddenly very aware of my own presence within the gallery space and every shuffle of my feet sounds like a troop of a thousand elephants. It is like the deathly silence that was noted after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then a bugler plays the last post and the whole rigmarole starts again. It brings to mind the musical compositions of Charles Marclay, a cacophony of music that you are trying to make sense of and once you recognise it, it switches to something else.
The experience of the work is oddly cinematic; films such as 'The Great Escape', 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Apocalypse Now' spring to mind, perhaps because of the wartime music, which is so prominent in these films. Clamor is a powerful, emotive piece and it works on many levels; it addresses notions concerning the politics of war, architecture and nostalgia, forcing one to appreciate the importance of music in the context of war, both today and historically.
As I walk through Hyde Park on my way to South Kensington tube station, the aftermath of Clamor lingering, I can faintly hear the bugler tooting in my ears. I suddenly become aware of my position geographically in London and as I glance at the Albert Memorial, I am reminded of all the political protests and mass demonstrations that have taken place here throughout history. The true voice of Clamor is heard once you step back into the real work and find yourself viewing your present location with the eyes and mindset of someone from the past.
London W2 3XA