Sounds Like at Dimensions Variable
Sounds Like—is the title of the recent exhibition at the artist-run space Dimensions Variable. Walking in, you hear no sounds; but of course, pay close attention, and you can hear the throbbing of blood throughout your body. And various other incidentals.
There’s also the hum of the air conditioning working hard in Miami’s summer swelter. Fitting, then, that the first piece you see is a big ole’ AC unit placed on the gallery floor, put there by Tom Scicluna. It’s not only a cheeky reference to the fact that Dimensions Variable had a busted AC for some time—it’s the very same unit itself, replete with the scrawled word SMILE by some too-cheery graffitier.
To the left of 7-ton capacity sits a sculpture by Janelle Iglesias, one composed of two stacked speaker boxes with various sonic items such as curvy hand blown glass, funnels, a shell for listening to the sea. Corner Drum, a plastered snare drum with a triangular cement totem sticking through it, suggests Nicholas des Cognet’s penchant for pithy calls to concept.
Another of des Cognet’s works hangs on the wall, and is the only that produces real sound. A 12-minute video (with headphones) of the artist playing blast beats next to an image of a glorious foresty landscape (for the uninitiated: blast beats are the rapid-fire beats on the snare, hi hat, and bass drum indigenous to various metal genres).
Two works by the artist Mike Calway-Fagen—who had a big role in organizing the exhibition—are of particular delight. A series of effigies look like empty plinths from a few yards away, but step closer, and you see that they are in fact a trombone, clarinet, and trumpet: each are frozen within, their XXX peeking out, silenced yet loud.
The most provoking work is Calway-Fagen’s near-twin photographs, titled Honeydew Cantaloupe. At first, the two pictures of a pile of scrap steel at a junkyard in Omaha, Nebraska seem identical. You then learn that the one on the left was the pile as it originally stood before the artist, and that he purchased the entire pile after snapping a pic of it, drove it to his workspace at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, then re-welded it into the same configuration as it stood in the junkyard originally.
Afterwards, he brought it back, sold it back to them, and then photographed it in more or less the same place where it stood originally.
This process-heavy piece gets at the heart of the show: besides being about sound the phenomenon—it’s about its conceptual underpinnings. Sounds Like is the gesture we use in the game Charades, an approximation of knowledge so that we may get closer to the answer, a metaphor useful for understanding the capacity and shape of listening, speaking, and knowing. Indeed, there are ways of hearing without listening, seeing without looking; and sometimes the best path to knowing is letting go.
Sounds Like was on view at Dimensions Variable in Miami, FL May 8 – July 20th, 2015.