What I See When I Look at Sound

What I See When I Look at Sound

What does sound look like? For the five artists currently exhibiting at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, that question has five very different answers.

What I See When I Look at Sound is a new exhibition at PICA in the Perth Cultural Centre. Originally set to launch in July 2013, the exhibition was delayed thanks to a partial roof collapse, but with the ceiling fixed, it’s finally launched a year later.  The exhibit brings together five multi-disciplinary artists with backgrounds in sculpture, music, design and sound art to explore the relationship between what is seen and what is heard.

For musician and writer Lyndon Blue, that relationship is a distorted, malleable mess. Blue’s contribution to the exhibition comes in the form of a theremin – the electronic instrument you control by placing your hand varying distances from its metal sensor. It’s the same whirring, droning instrument you’re probably familiar with from horror movies of decades past, but the genius of Blue’s piece is that it lets you manipulate a visual track of grainy black-and-white stock footage from the Hindenburg, corrupting the scene with alterations that feel three-dimensional in a brilliant display of interactive art.

In the main hall of PICA – the room with the now-repaired ceiling – hangs an automatic orchestra of several dozen flickering lights, playing a symphony of clicks and tones amongst strobing light bulbs. It’s a simple display, but utterly entrancing. Deeper in the building is a cavernous room of eternal feedback – a sound sculpture of guitars and basses and amplifiers and endless drone that feels like a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But an exhibit about sound can be about silence, too, which is what artist Lauren Brown explores in her silent meditation. Hidden in a corner in the same large space as the symphony of light bulbs, Brown’s text-based piece is backlit by a probing blue light. You’re are encouraged to don a pair of headphones and block out the noise outside your head and listen to the sounds your internal voice when you read words about sound, like a magical multimedia poetry.

Finally there’s the synesthesia of Kynan Tan’s screen projector room, where in a darkened room two walls are host to a translucent display of the astronomical view of the world at night. It’s a hypnotic experience as the scene gradually evolves into kaleidoscopic explosion of colour and light. Elsewhere in the room you can disassociate your senses with three television screens of visual delight with an accompanying sound-art-track in an exercise of sensory overload. You’ll never look at sound the same way.

What I See When I Look at Sound runs at PICA until Sunday August 31. Visit www.pica.org.au for more details.

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