This past summer saw a number of high-profile sound art exhibitions at galleries around the world, including venues such as the Museum of Modern Art and South London Gallery. GV Art Gallery in Marylebone may not be as well-known as some of these institutions, but their contribution to the unofficial Year of the Sound Art Show is nonetheless impressive in its depth and breadth: 27 works by almost as many artists, with a diverse range of approaches on show. There is a huge amount of material to listen to in “NOISE and whispers”, which seems like an odd thing to say in a review of a sound art show but does set it apart from some other curatorial approaches I’ve come across recently.
Standout works include a small print-and-headphones piece by Yann Novak, which lacks the immersiveness of his larger audio-and-video works but retains some of the same aura; Janek Schaefer’s overlaying of 43 years’ worth of number 1 hits, with each year’s chart-toppers being played simultaneously; and Helen Frosi’s firework constellation composed in response to Wajid Yaseen’s graphic score. Mark Peter Wright’s “Re-capturing” wryly depicts the field recordist as he pursues his desired phonographic specimen, his eventual success evident in the microphone proudly displayed, post-taxidermy, in an ethnographer’s bell jar; while poking fun at phonography’s affinity with butterfly collecting, the work also questions assumptions regarding the nature of what is collected. Yet phonography’s central proposal, that of an essential link between sounds recorded and their purported source, proves remarkably resistant to disenchantment: in the gallery’s courtyard, Kate Carr’s “Pipistrelle Bat Drones” allows the pitch-shifted calls of local bats to meld with the sounds of muted London traffic and nearby heating systems.
In my hour-long visit I didn’t have time to explore all that “NOISE and whispers” has to offer, though if I had had a couple of hours more I undoubtedly would have spent it playing on raxil4’s interactive electronic instrument made from a modified Tascam Portastudio. As with virtually all exhibitions of sound art, the unavoidable problem of sound bleed from one work to another once again raised its head, but not so much as one might have expected given how many works are on show. If you’re within reach of west London before the exhibition closes on 14th December, a visit is highly recommended; the major Victor Burgin retrospective at Ambika P3 just round the corner is also a must-see.