Constellation: A durational chamber work

LIQUID ARCHITECTURE: A zodiac-inspired exhibition of sound artist coordinated by Madeline Flynn and Tim Humphrey.
Constellation: A durational chamber work
Constellation: a durational chamber work is technically a static sound exhibition, with staged aural experiments staggered over a three week period. Composers and sound designers Madeline Flynn and Tim Humphrey perform the dual role of agent provocateurs and creative collaborators, setting a stable of composers the task of responding to the year of their birth according to the Chinese zodiac. They are also responsible for the ‘performance interruptions’ which are held in the gallery at set times; aiming to progressively perform 11 compositions at hourly intervals. Dressed in black, the two seamlessly and effortlessly execute the scores set out by the artists.

The day I attended the exhibition featured the fourth interruption. Madeline Flynn and Tim Humphrey positioned themselves to play a standing version of Northern Hemisphere by David Young; an uncanny and intense duet of piano (including keys and strings) and horn, which sounded initially like the shriek of a train whistle and then progressed to a howling, animalistic sound eerily like baying wolves under a full moon.

The performance then went backwards so that the second cab off the rank was also the third. Neil Kelly’s piece included stage directions, so that Tim Humphrey had to enter playing from the East. Russian in aesthetic, Kelly’s piece was melancholy and elegiac; a sobering predecessor to Ros Bandt’s ingenious absurdist multimedia piece, which would seem to be a tribute to the Year of the Rabbit.

Bandt’s installation piece was probably the most charming and whimsical interactive response of the show; forcing both performers to don white cotton gloves and to spin a top on a metal circular surface – both did so in perfect silence, miming a curse as the top inadvertently skidded off the table. Flynn then retrieved a plastic toy female rabbit and placed it alongside three wind-up male rabbits, all stored in a white cupboard. The sound of the top, and the grinding of the rabbits mechanically back-flipping on the surface when the gallery was perfectly still, was quite astonishing, and was only really effective in absence of noise pollution from the crowd and other installations.

The successful rabbit – one who had not fallen flat or who seemed the most robust – was unanimously crowned the victor and placed on the same shelf as the female, whilst the losers sat below.

Rohan Drapes’ minimalist and subdued piano and horn piece which followed was a work of restrained reverb by comparison, but no less a beautiful, albeit more traditional score.

Constellation is a profoundly visual as well as aural experience. The Red Gallery exhibition space is ideal for showcasing sound art: a picture of minimalist monochrome, black stages with empty chairs and music stands; white walls illuminated by natural light and strip lighting.

Wander through the space and sit down into vacant chairs, activating the works. Bear in mind that when several installations are active, it’s difficult to distinguish individual installation sounds from neighbouring pieces. It’s best to peruse the collective aural curiosities of this unique exhibition at a quiet time or when others have moved through the space.

Constellation: A durational chamber work

Three week exhibition with performance interruptions at Red Gallery, 157 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North.

Daily performance interruptions: 2/07 at 11 am, 3/07 at 12 noon, 7/07 at 1pm, 8/07 at 2pm, 9/07 at 3pm, 10/07 at 4pm, 14/07 at 11 am, 15/07 at 12 noon, 16/07 at 1pm, 17/07 at 2pm.

Exhibition opening hours: 11am - 5pm

Ruth McIver

Monday 12 July, 2010

About the author

Ruth McIver is Melbourne based music writer, arts reviewer and emerging novelist.