On January 31, Galerie Laroche/Joncas opened Temps individus/Individual times, a “solo” show of Montreal-based duo Catherine Béchard & Sabin Hudon. The artistic investigations of the pair include sound sculpture, kinetic sound installations, audio art, electronic art and performance. Animated objects and their components have been at the heart of their research and creation from the very beginning.
This kinetic sound piece contains a cluster of loud speakers inserted into the lids of multi-sized glass jars. They rest on slipmats and are each topped with a glass dome that can be raised through a system of electromechanical pulleys. Audio cables linked to amplifiers cluster around the glass devices strewn across the floor.
This installation is derived from a questioning of the nature of silence, its dynamic rather than oppositional relationship with sound, and the space that supposed silence opens up for deeper perception. As John Cage demonstrated with his game-changing 4:33 sixty years ago—a performance in which Cage sat at a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, never playing a note—, when we bracket off time or space we can become better observers of the ambient noise that surrounds us all the time. Moreover the composer or artist has relinquished control of what the viewer sees and hears, giving it over to chance and external, invisible forces rather than any one person’s aesthetic choices.
Béchard and Hudon’s work, like certain other contemporary installation practices—such as that of Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, for example—leave the mechanism of the work’s movement and sound fully visible to the viewer. Yet there is an element of mystery involved which compels us to observe even more closely and attentively. There is an unclear system of triggers and effects at work here, a system that seems to include us the spectators as we move carefully around the jars, domes, pulleys, cables, and amplifiers. When I first entered the gallery, all was quiet and all glass domes sat on their jars. It took some time for things to begin: a dome would slowly, hesitantly lift, sometimes only 20 centimetres. A ghostly breath hisses in decrescendo. You guess that it comes from the jar/dome complex but it’s hard to tell from which one exactly. When five or six people had been in the space for several minutes, some walking around, some squatting and leaning against the walls, the domes had all risen and were now suspended high up, above our heads. Coupled with the unpredictable and very sporadic emissions of amplified breath, this moment was truly one of suspension—held breath, held glass above the floor, our collective anticipation for some change, which could well be scarcely perceptible.
As the written material accompanying the show describes, “The repetitive movements of breath and glass domes are the prerequisites of time transformations, engaging us to become observers of gaps and variations, rather then keepers of time.” A time-based work that is also reliant on the kinetic activity of the spectator, I would argue, does one better by erasing the difference between the passive and active spectator. We and the work seem to be rather engaging an idiosyncratic time(s) together, becoming what Boris Groys calls “collaborator[s], comrade[s] of time, true con-temporar[ies].”
This installation will await your kinetic presence until March 31, 2013.