AND/OR: Foam (until 2nd August 2014)
As far as my writing for this blog is concerned, I have not fully embraced sound art as a medium as much as I would like. So with this I was very pleased to see the latest exhibition at AND/OR, E2, where artist Mat Jenner has compiled a site-specific collection of soundtracks on vinyl. Visitors are invited to choose from the many artists who have produced tracks for the exhibition and play each vinyl themselves with the provided turntables. According to the press release, there are over a hundred vinyls to select from, with an accompanying book, and consequently it might take an individual two full days to hear each of the sound pieces.
AND/OR says that "Foam explores the condition of the contemporary art object and its relationship to spectatorship, dissemination, presence and display", and while the tracks all vary greatly, each artist relies on the individuality of the listener to relate to certain sounds, tones and combinations of such in order to evoke personal responses to his or her work. During the respectable amount of time I spent in the gallery, I managed to listen to four vinyls in their entirety, so am already considering another visit before the exhibition closes at the beginning of August. The space itself felt wholly immersive, especially as I was able to enjoy the sound art without interruption or external noise. A glass ceiling, white walls and several mirrors in the space allow real opportunity for contemplation and reaction to the sound art.
While I also listened to Stuart Bannister's 'Phonographic Performance', which evidently uses music technology in order to create a space between the listener and the track as the sounds get eerily further and further away, the final piece I will discuss is Rebecca Lennon's 'Hollywood Park', an artist whose work I saw at the ASC Gallery earlier in the year, written about here. Taking into account the site-specific nature of 'Foam', in that the track will be heard only in AND/OR, the use of a park in Burnley as a focal point for a piece immediately alienates the typical London-based listener. In response to this, Lennon speaks of "a moment choreographed just for you" in this spoken-word track, in which she references the confinement of the traditional gallery space at great length, most intriguingly so when she refers to keeping her listeners/viewers "captive". Lennon's work is powerful in that she speaks frankly about the way in which we can share our memories, such as hers about Hollywood Park, and interpret them to mean something to us.
That premise, and hope, is exactly what 'Foam' is striving towards. The immersive element of the exhibition, providing visitors with nothing but their own (literal and metaphorical) reflection, with art directly from each respective artist, brings generally both pleasing and potent results. I have high hopes for my pending second visit, which is certainly required in order to explore and assess 'Foam' as wholly as possible.