Sound art is a relatively new and hard-to-define category. A recent expression of the art form by local sound artists was a series of live performances that used images and sounds at the Digital Art Center, Taipei (台北數位藝術中心) for the second annual TranSonic — Sounding Objects (超響—發聲體) exhibition.
But for Wang Fujui (王福瑞), event curator and one of the participating artists, the genre suggests many more possibilities than just performances. So-called “sound-producing objects” are one of these possibilities, and they are the focus of the second part of TranSonic, which is currently on display at Galerie Grand Siecle (新苑藝術).
The group show features a collection of sound installation pieces by seven artists, most of whom are studying at the Graduate School of Art and Technology (科技藝術研究所) of Taipei National University of the Arts (國立台北藝術大學).
“Sound art is in its nascent phrase in Taiwan. The experiments [so far] have been mostly focused on ... live performances ... This exhibition is a bit like a statement that points to a new direction — sound artists are now creating new sound-producing objects and using them to develop new vocabularies,” said Wang, one of Taiwan’s foremost practitioners of sound art.
Among the technically sophisticated self-built sound-producing objects on display is Wang Chung-kun’s (王仲) Kong Qi (空器). This device releases compressed air at high speeds, which activates valves inside acrylic tubes of different lengths to generate different sounds. By exposing the process through which sounds are made as a result of physical vibrations, the artist aims to highlight the tactile domain of sound rather than the sense of hearing.
Inspired by the theremin, an electronic musical instrument developed by Russian inventor Leon Theremin in 1919 that can been controlled without contact from the player, Yeh Ting-hao’s (葉廷皓) Simulatautomation (拙模成器) allows visitors to alter the speed, frequency and volume of pre-programmed sounds by moving their hands near sensors on a control board. These sounds in turn control images projected onto a wall.
“The sensors are the extension of my body. They make me feel like a cyborg,” said Yeh.
Wang Fujui’s Sound Disc (聲碟) comprises six identical sound-producing objects made from hard discs, mini microphones and speakers. These create a feedback loop that builds into “a blanketing of abstract sound,” to use the artist’s words.
The noise resembles the raucous chirping of cicadas one hears in the summer. Stand in front of the work long enough and one begins to understand why the artist calls the sound “blanketing.” It envelops the listener in a hypnotic rumbling that could very well induce a meditative, if not trance-like, state of mind.
“My works are made to show certain kinds of emotions and mental states that I feel most strongly about. I don’t need mind-altering substances to be in a certain state of mind,” said Wang.
Two other installations draw their inspiration from childhood memories. When Chang Yung-ta (張永達) was younger he was fascinated by the eerie sound created by fast-forwarding or rewinding cassette tapes. Trembling — Symphony Version (微顫—交響樂版) is the grown-up version of Chang’s childhood game and uses classical music tapes and a device that resembles a music box. The apparatus is designed to “read” the magnetic tapes incorrectly so as to create “analog errors,” which are increasingly rare and valuable amid digital precision, the artist said.
Static Position (靜電位) by Wang Lien-cheng (王連晟) looks like an acrylic plate with circuits and three “stun guns.” The device is activated when a person approaches it, causing the stun guns to generate beeps that sound like insects being electrocuted by a bug zapper.
“I often got mosquito bites when I visited my grandparent’s house in the countryside. When I was a kid, I felt great pleasure when I heard the sound of them being killed by the bug zapper, but at the same time I was frightened by the deadly electric shock. I want to incorporate both of the sensations in my work,” the artist said.
A word of warning: To avoid electric shock, gallerygoers should not touch Static Position.
WHAT: TranSonic — Sounding Objects (超響—發聲體)
WHERE: Galerie Grand Siecle (新苑藝術), 17, Alley 51, Ln 12, Bade Rd Sec 3,
Taipei City (台北市八德路三段12巷51弄17號)
WHEN: Through Aug. 8. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 1pm to 6pm
TELEPHONE: (02) 2578-5630
ON THE NET: www.changsgallery.com.tw; transonic2009.blogspot.com
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