Machines for Singing - Rowena Easton and Mike Blow

A glance at the pages of the visitor’s book can give a unique insight into an exhibition. At the ‘Machines for Singing’ sound installation at the Gardner Arts Centre, I was surprised to see how much discussion had been generated there. Heading the comments was the line, ‘The most amazing twaddle of the year. Try to spend more wisely next time.’ It was followed by the remark, ‘This is not art’. This kind of debate tends to surface wherever there is no discernible product which has been made by the bare hands of the artist. ‘Machines for Singing’ makes the building itself into the art-piece, manipulating ‘live’ organic sounds to produce surprisingly melodious song-like effects. The room is empty except for a circular seating arrangement in the centre, and several speakers positioned around them. Microphones, which have been ‘plugged in’ to the venue, pick up rumbling creaks and groans overlaid with eerie echoes and otherworldly noises. There are even moments of unexpected beauty such as the ripple of a sweeter song like a bird call.

The work is designed to challenge the perception of buildings as static objects by allowing us to hear the subtle movements of the composite materials responding to their environment. Yet, there is something fundamentally unsettling about the concept of the ‘living building’ which recalls dystopian images of technology overpowering humanity. Indeed, a fellow visitor neatly summarised this view with the phrase, ‘This is art – classical Greek theatre meets 1984’. ER


Wired for sound: The Gardners Arts Centre writes its own symphony
Where?
Gardner Arts Centre
When? Until 25th June
How Much? Free
 
Gardner Arts Centre
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