Thursday, 21 June 2012


.ICA GALLERY  until 16 September 

   The first problem is that sound art is invisible, so this image is a merely a sketch of a New York gallery where DAYS was installed some time ago.  The British premiere is at  the ICA (Institute of Contemorary Arts) in the Mall, accessible now only from Trafalgar Square.   Which is itself another problem.  Acres and acres of roads and parks in central London are cordoned off .  There are so many pedestrian diversions I despair of reaching any of the three galleries I've targetted. Some pavements are so crowded I need to  look carefully before taking the next step.  Buses stand nose to tail along Whitehall.   The Olympics are coming to town!
You walk between 14 flat panel speakers to hear Nauman's award-winning work, experiencing  the sound of a continous stream of 7 voices coming from 14 flat panel speakers reciting the days of the week in random order. The days crash into each other, empty and meaningless. Is this art?

Nauman always invites us to see the bare stuff of life in a new way, to fashion sound into 'art' in our own heads. At first I reflected on the way we chop time up into segments, label them, dismiss some and pour great significance into other bits and pieces. And how we live as if we own or  'have' time: time to use or waste or give away. But we only ever have the present moment, the 'now', each unique second, this moment when I am writing this sentence - and you are reading it.
But there's another dimension. I'm alone in the gallery. Sun streams through the windows from the Mall where I can see flags fluttering, JCBs loitering, and piles of gleaming barriers stacked and waiting for action.  Out there there's been a collective decision to create Olympic time - Special Time, Liminal Time - when life's ordinary rules do not apply.

I climb several flights of stairs to a place where, I'm told, I can encounter over a hundred artists, some of whom have been working with sound for many years, others new to sonic art. The gallery consists of a room empty except for a comfortable wide rectangular black bench in the centre. In the centre of that is sunk a screen rather like an I Pad. Stroke it and up comes an index of names. Select one and touch: hey presto the artist's work is there in the room with you.The project, entitled SOUNDWORKS, is a virtual exhibition space, a place to sample a wide range of audible approaches. You should be able to hear them on the dedicated SOUNDWORKS microsite at as well as in the ICA galleries.

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