analogue technologies

richard giblett, geoff newton, ronnie van hout and kimmo vennonen
Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Manuka
17 May - I 5 June 2002

I first saw Analogue Technologies while answering (paying for) trivia questions at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space annual quiz night. The juxtaposition of this four-way exhibition exploring music, materiality and memory meshed well (strangely} with the quiz night's theme of 'Fame'. That brain dazzling night began with a rendition of lrene Cara's hit single of the 1980s from the Dynamic Dancers, resplendent in leg warmers, headbands and Lycra. Hard to believe it has been twenty years.

Music has a way of taking us back to a very specific time, putting us in our place. It reveals particular influences, our age. lt maps histories. Is revelatory.

Analogue Technologies is an exhibition that makes us remember. The four artists, Ronnie van Hout, Richard Giblett, Kimmo Vennonen and Geoff Newton, traverse nostalgia, memory, past technologies, aural and material histories as a way to articulate and document our culture. Working with musical puns and metaphors and actual materials, the artists draw us into a dialogue about our own reference points and experience, a discourse about what makes up our contemporary culture , who we are.

Rock by Ronnie van Hout is the first thing you see in this open and resonating exhibition space. lt consists of three fake rocks (one large and two small for the speakers) which are most probably granite and covered in fake moss, a tiny video screen you have to be tall enough to peer at and one music sample which is played over and over. Said to be 'a visual and aural pun of van Hout's I just wanna rock attitude', Rock teases us with references to rock 'n' roll, the Flinstones, dinosaurs, even the Old Testament. Rock is something you get straight away, like any good pun. Nothing more really, nothing less. The finishing touch for me was the lone ant crawling the artificial surface. Deliberate? Accidental? Does it matter which?

Richard Giblett's installation Analogjam is a single continuous found length of cassette tape shaped with pins into an analogue synthesiser on a desk. The cassette itself-titled 'Jefferson Airplane/Surrealistic Pillow'-spills out onto the floor. lt is an amusing piece, using the materiality of the very work Giblett describes, and drawing us into thinking about his biography (our biographies). lt makes us ask what title we would choose to describe ourselves.

Sound engineer Kimmo Vennonen's Matrix of Possibilities is a sound sculpture that unravels the very making of sound. lt is a grand tribute to familiar but obsolete machinery- Ampex reel-to-reels, a JVC memory meter, Sansui stereo graphic equaliser, Roland voice processor. Highly technical , interactive and based on feedback Vennonen creates 'a weird sound hybrid'. Feedback is hard to control: it can spiral out of control to explosion or it can easily 'decay into silence '. The strength of Matrix of Possibilities is the presence of the artist, the professional. We are in good hands. As Vennonen says 'with a favourable matrix condition the sounds will prosper and possibly become music to our ears'. This is what we listen for.

The fourth exhibit, and most satisfying, Today's Cavities by artisUmusician Geoff Newton is a personal collection of cassette titles. lt reveals much about Newton himself, his particular musical history and taste (or does it?). lt positions certain musical genres in time, points them out, heralds their once-upon-a-time 'pure' status, allows us to reflect on the changing eclecticism of today's pop-music. 'Back then' (and we are talking only a dozen years ago) 'groups such as these (lce-T and Jane's Addiction) probably wouldn't have appeared on the same album ... '. What appeals is the way Newton's collection begs us to open our own glove box, document our histories, disclose taste, infiuence, tell stories. We are forced to ask not just what titles we would select given half the chance, but the titles we do have in the glove box, on the floor of the car. The facts of the matter. Unsettling revelations. Choosing the stories we want to tell, constructing narratives, concealing secrets--{)r not. Auto/biographies by cassette titles.

Analogue Technologies is a surprisingly confronting exhibition, confronting with a small 'c'. lt returns to yesterday, reminds us that we live in a rapidly changing technological world. lt uncovers who we are and, if we listen to the stories, the music, who we might become.