I was intrigued to visit the Science Gallery’s latest offering, Oscillator: Everything in Motion as I expected a strong connection with the musical and sonic worlds, and this was definitely the case. Curators Repetto & Hutzler did a wonderful job of incorporating interactive sound installations to render the “unseen motion, cycles and vibrations of our oscillatory world”. These were my highlights:
> Phase Ring A large installation by US artist Andrew Cavatorta, a collaborator of Bjork on her recent Biophilia tour. Inviting in its uncluttered, minimalist look of metal and plywood, this piece consists of a circle of free-swinging pendulums which the audience can set in motion by hand. Although each pendulum arm’s note and period is predetermined, it is possible to create an infinite number of tunes by changing the order and timing of each push. Each section is fitted with a plectrum and string combo- the sound amplified by a pickup located in a small wooden box on each arm, and connected to an amplifier overhead. Form and function beautifully merged.
> Waves by Daniel Palacios (Spain). Upstairs is another attractive piece, this time exploring the relationship between sound and space and in particular how sound waves compress and decompress through the air, in the presence or absence of obstacles. A rope creates 3D waves in the air both visually and in sound form, with the audience presence and movement around the rope affecting its behaviour. Its form creates chaotic shapes, occasionally almost coming to a standstill before returning once again to a steady cycle.
> Mouth Tank by Michael Hanna (UK). Adjacent to Waves is a definite highlight of this exhibition, although I only realise this as I experience it. The overall look of the installation is somewhat unappealing at first, as it is vaguely reminiscent of a home made sci-fi pod, or one of those tragic ‘simulators’ that sometimes plague suburban fairgrounds. There’s bits of metal paint peeling off and a set of steps leading up and into it, but I am intrigued by the interactive element and quite like the idea of being third in line after two children, thank you very much- so decide to hang around. Things don’t improve much when I step inside, where I find a dusty carpet patch and a red leather chair – but there is soundproofing, so I’m hopeful, albeit liberal bits of it are coming off the ceiling. Things do improve dramatically once the attendant closes the door after me. I am now inside the mouth of the Speaker, and I can sense every vibration, pressure and nuance in his pronunciation of the International Phonetic Alphabet (as it turns out). The sound quality of this immersive installation is fantastic (4 ch + subwoofer under the chair), with sounds mapped across the speakers based on where each of these is produced within the mouth. It works, I believe it. Being there in the dark and alone is a short but thrilling journey. When my time is up and the attendant releases me flooding light back into the pod I am genuinely sorry the time’s already up. ‘Can I go again?’
> The Parallel Series by Kelly Heaton (US). This inconspicuous and deceptively simple series of works framed in white against a white wall was hanging to my left as I first entered the exhibition, and I missed it in favour of the larger, louder exhibits which first grabbed my attention.
I was delighted to stumble upon it again on my way out, as it presented an interesting exploration of themes of technology and spirituality. Each painting seems to pulsate and come alive with natural sounds, yet none of these sounds are field recordings: they are all effects recreated by Heaton with electrical circuitry, which is embedded and exposed in the works themselves alongside painting, drawing and text, also by Heaton. Her skilled manipulation of oscillating forms (by way circuit design elements) creates a striking, realistic series of natural sounds including birds chirping and cicadas that are strangely melancholy in their lack, and simulation, of life.
Oscillator: Everything in Motion runs until 14th April at Dublin’s Science Gallery