Tuesday 19 March 2013

Me and K went down to the silos again to see a show.

The show was Concretions, an installation by three artists: Robert Carter, Kim Newall and Clinton Watkins. K's friend Rob invited her, and she invited me.
I think I took a few lessons with Watkins, back at Elam - there can't be too many artists named Clint working with sound in Auckland. I remember his lessons being very good: he had the knack of simultaneously teaching us a lot and convincing us that in his field, sound, there was nothing left to explore, that it was all being done better already. That was okay by me, because even then I just wanted to write confused and unfocused stories.

The silos official looking steps with an accessible lift set out in front of them. Inside, the space was changed by the people.

It was smaller, physically, but larger in other ways.

Installation art is interesting because it's so site specific. The site is a literal canvas, and something more than that as well: it dictates how you interact with the art, the way you walk through it.

This work could not have existed outside of the silos: a different sort of space would have yielded a different work. The combination of installation with performance means the show was time-based as well as site-specific. The art existed not on a canvas or in a gallery, but in a moment in time. When the show is over and all the chalk washed away, it'll disappear entirely, except for photos like these. (I don't have any kind of permission to share these, by the way. But I took them more than openly, and I'll take 'em right back down again if anyone complains.)

The performance started with Watkins creating a sound scape. It built and rose until the silos vibrated and I thought uncomfortably of earthquakes. At Elam, Watkins had told our little group that different frequencies affect the body in different ways: they can bring on emotions, sure, but they also affect us at a cellular level. He said that the doof doof doof of the speakers in those dumb boy racer cars are at just the right pitch to permanently damage ones kidneys. We all tittered and thought that's what you get for doing up a car instead of going to art school and it rather served them right.

I wondered if Watkins was trying to make us think of of anything in particular in the silo, or if he was just riffing off the group. The silo wasn't silent. There were murmurs and footsteps and the shuffle shuffle tap of a tween practicing her dance moves in the echo chamber.

Watkin's sound had been created electronically. Carter took a more low-tech approach.

He'd placed a doorbell in the centre of silo 4 - my silo, I thought, irrationally. When the button was pressed, the sound rang out like a church bell. "That's delightful!" I burst out, grinning like a fool.

For the performance, he took hold of a gas canister and dragged and rolled it throughout the space. The sound it made was wonderful, and the physicality of the act emphasized that this was a show in space as well as time: even if it was repeated in a different location, it'd be a different show altogether.

I found myself watching other people - the tourist with the backpack, the couple on a date. It was the kind thing I would have dragged my art school boyfriend too. I found myself looking up too, searching for the silo's landscapes the people obscured.

 Out the window, K and I watched a little of another performance.

Then we went and got another beer and sat watching the light fade over the water and the Sky Tower light up. On the stands near the silos, they'd hung a banner:


"This is great," I said.

"You ever have one of those perfect moments," said K, "where everything is lovely?"

I said, "I don't know why anyone would live anywhere else."


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