sonography

olivia bennett, sophie chapman and madeleine allen-cawte, wayne nelson, damien pascoe, freya pinney, ali verban, jacqui vial, wendy wilkins and nick eady

Although apparently curated without a conceptual framework, the artists in Sonography all deal in some way with the concerns of sound, image and installation, particularly in relation to notions of game, humour, contemplation and the creation of alternate spaces. For this one night event hosted by Datum: Contemporary Art and Research, curator Amanda Cuyler brought together ten artists (including two collaborations) in an attempt to map out the kinds of spaces inhabited by the obviously problematic tag, sound art. However, in saying this, the show did not endeavour to impose an answer upon the audience, rather it asked the individual viewer to navigate, both conceptually and physically, the spaces opened up by the works.

The video projection and installation produced by Sophie Chapman and Madeleine Allen-Cawte highlighted some relationships between contemporary politics, world events and news coverage. The combination of rapidly edited video footage from protests at the Woomera detention centre earlier in the year, and a continuously layered sound-scape of audio from the protest, drew attention to the editing processes involved in the development of the work and analogously pointed to the structural agendas of both politics and news presentation. By sectioning off the seating areas in the old cinema space where the work was exhibited, Chapman and Allen-Cawte relayed the notions of restriction and control evident in the video onto the viewers engagement with the work. As the sound and image overlapped in this classified zone of reception, the result was a sense of overwhelming empathy for the asylum-seeking subjects of the footage.

In an attempt to position the viewer awkwardly between humour and disgust, Olivia Bennett combined scenes of male masturbation from pornographic videos with bodily-fluidlike sound effects. These were displayed on three monitors. Titled Fountain, an obvious reference to Marcel Duchamp (as well as contemporary appropriations), the work speculated about relationships between art, art history, and self-gratification. However, in her questioning of the relevance and status of contemporary art, Bennett incongruously encoded her artwork with a title synonymous with art history while apparently endeavouring to critique such art. While this was a problematic, Bennett did raise some important questions about the masculine domination of art history, as well as the contextual information involved in artistic production.

Wayne Nelson 's pre-recorded morphing car revs and belching sounds, also probed issues relating to masculinity. The viewer's inevitable mistaking of belching for car revs, employed a sense of humour/disgust similar to Bennett's, however Nelson's work was more concerned with the common understandings of masculinity, rather than the presentation and reception of art. Installed on the Edward Street frontage of Metro Arts, Nelson 's work allowed one to distance oneself from masculine stereotypes, enabling a constructive critique.

The work of Wendy Wilkins and Nick Eady also was positioned site-specifically, this time in the bathrooms of Metro Arts. Re-presenting the sounds of flushing toilets and opening toilet-doors, Wilkins and Eady created a sense that one was participating in a game established by the artists. Because the rules and purpose of the game remained unknown, one soon became aware of one's actions in that space, almost with the sense of being watched. This self-awareness, although humorous, forced viewers to consider their conventional relationship to the art object, via the toilet humour pun.

Jacqui Vial 's installation also gave the initial impression of being a game. Viewers were invited to approach the digital video camera situated in the foyer of the building only to be presented with a live image of themselves investigating the camera, thus inverting the initial impression. This was not a game in which you participated actively; rather you were 'played ' by the work. This inversion was reinforced by the repetitive instructive voices telling you to 'stand still ' (among other things), as well as the use of the camera as a method of display rather than simply recording.

Ali Verban's work also involved a game, this time played by the artist herself. On hands and knees, and accompanied by a ambient, contemplative sound track, Verban searched through scores of marbles, examining each individually, then putting them aside or back with the others, as she saw fit. One got the impression that the game was not for the audience, but for the artist.

Freya Pinney's work also dealt with an issue of contemplation. Miniature statues of Middle Eastern appearance were placed in a bed of sand and formed a line which ended at a projected image of a curtain apparently moving or blowing with the wind. The knowledge that this was a static image provoked a terse balance between the calm and the dynamic. Read together with Pinney's layered sounds of Middle Eastern music, one could draw connections with the turmoil currently occurring as a result of recent events in that region. For example, one could relate the balance between calm and dynamism with particular protests by asylum seekers, to wit, the voluntary stitching of lips together. The allusion to this tenuous relationship between a statement and the act of saying, allowed for an alternate space of contemplation that structured the interconnections possible in this work.

Damien Pascoe also created an 'other' space: one of transition. In a small room, comparable to a walk-in cupboard, Pascoe transmitted his almost violent sounds of passing trains. The incongruous scale of space to sound was integrated through the placement of two small white metallic boxes, visible only as the fluorescent light flickered above them. This uneasiness of scale posed questions about the boxes' relationship with the sound. In an attempt to grasp this relationship, both conceptually and sensually, one was held in a state of in-between or transition between knowing and not knowing, seeing and hearing, and comprehension and apprehension.

In a captivating way, Sonography presented diverse approaches to sound art, while also navigating some of the conceptual interests of the artists. By presenting the works free from thematic associations (other than their medium), the exhibition provided a worthwhile analysis of the status of art using sound and consequently the effectiveness of the tag sound art.