Have you ever walked into a gallery trying to look at the art on the wall and been distracted by the sound track from a video piece playing close by? I know I have. It’s a frustrating moment when the auditory and visual sensations compete for your attention. The Zabludowicz project sets out to tackle this very dilemma with their new exhibition “Sound Spill” on 2 floors of their 1500 Broadway building. The show is open to the public May 8-12 and by appointment until May 26. How sound inhabits an exhibition space, particularly the way in which it spills on or bleeds into artworks, is the inspiration and focus of this show. Thom O’Nions, co- curator said “We tried to take something that is generally regarded as a problem and make it work!”
Media works from the Zabludowicz collection are scattered strategically along a very raw and unfinished interior of the 7th floor. The windows have been darkened and only the ambient glow from video displays and projections alight the space. In a dream-like atmosphere, we are led by our ears as well as our eyes around corners and walls to discover the various monitors or screens. “The interaction of the sound made by each work dictates and structures their arrangement.” explained the curator.
The most successful and stirring work in the show is by Peter Fischli and David Weiss titled “Hunde” (Dogs) 2003. The image and the sound are married without guile. It is a 10 min video of a caged dog barking from behind a fence while staring into the camera. The larger than life portrait of the dog beckons the viewer while combined with the immediacy of his barking makes this piece very disturbing. The projection on a sleek screen only intensified a need I felt to run out and do something to rescue this dog.
The oldest work in the show dates to 1976 and is by John Baldasari. It is called “Four Minutes of trying to Tune Two Glasses (for Phil Glass sextet).” The 70’s TV plays a 4:09 min black and white video shot of hands pouring water into two glasses, while tapping them for the sound. The water levels are tested until the 2 glasses of differing height match in sound. Thom O’ Nions said. “This piece to me is a symbol of everything we were trying to do within this exhibit. It is a metaphor of finding a balance of sight and sound.”
I found the work by Amalia Pica “Speakers Corner”, 2008 equally emblematic. A slide carousel projects a singular image of an amplifier/ speaker over and over onto a corner wall. The sound of the slide carousel as it nosily clicks between slides sets up an expectation that other images will appear. But the sound is visually met with a conceptual smirk, the repeated solitary image of a mute speaker. The artist intention was to comment on Hyde Park’s Sunday Speaker’s Corner, but to me the piece seems to beautifully paraphrase the shows curatorial message.
The one commissioned piece, “Save Cooper” 2013, is by New York Artist Trisha Baga. It is a 3D 9:12 min video installation. The video was shot in situ from a nearby 7th floor window looking down on the pedestrian sidewalk traffic. The video is projected onto a wall installation of various objects depicting economic despair in America. Tacked to the wall are a business man’s tie, some stained dollar bills as well as discarded shopping bags. Objects also litter the floor along the wall. To compound the message the artist has a sound track from Disney’s Pocahontas play and images of Disney’s Toy Story run through the video canvas as well. Viewers are asked to don 3D.
The “Sound Spill” exhibition continues on the 33rd floor and here it takes on a completely different feel and focus. Here the only art objects imported into the empty and raw 33rd floor are sculptural speakers. The curators have worked with Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S Davidson to produce a new set of objects for amplifying sound. They are uniquely shaped cardboard constructions that are in themselves beautiful. Eight artists were commissioned to produce a 6 channel audio work that responds to the ideas of Sound Spill.
The playlist of artists engaged to fill the 33 floor with sound is most impressive. I however, was struck deaf by the stunning view from the 360 degree vista from floor to ceiling windows overlooking the heart of Times Square. I don’t know if it was the visual spill or if the ‘Sound Spill ‘audio was playing too low, but I found it hard to listen to the art while standing in such a brilliant setting. The visual splendor of the surroundings overwhelmed the curatorial accomplishments of the 6 channel concert. Perhaps I will go back, for Playback Night May 17th, from 6-8 pm to experience the new audio commissions without visual distractions after the sun has set.
Words/Photo Lizanne Merrill Top Artwork: Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Hunde, 2003
SOUND SPILL: CURATED BY THOM O’NIONS AND RICHARD SIDES – Zabludowicz Collection New York 1500 Broadway, New York, NY – May 8-12 and by appointment until May 26