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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Maastricht Undertones: drawing the line between visual art and music

'Everything about you' (2013) by Lyndsey Housden (England, 1980) at Marres House, Maastricht
'Everything about you' (2013) by Lyndsey Housden
Part of the London Concord Singer's foray into Maastricht (covered here) included a visit to Marres House for Contemporary Culture to see part of 'Undertones' an exhibition examining what music we hear in the world around us.

Each of the works I saw was well thought out and executed, and ultimately thought provoking. One highlight was 'Everything about you' (2013) by Lyndsey Housden (England, 1980) - a silent musical instrument with strings spanning the room and opened-out sounding boxes. Touching was encouraged – so you could 'play' it although it made no sound.

Espen Sommer Eide '396Hz at 2000 frames/s – 88BPM at 1000 frames/s' (2013) at Marres House, Maastricht
Espen Sommer Eide
'396Hz at 2000 frames/s – 88BPM at 1000 frames/s' (2013)
Similarly Espen Sommer Eide's (Norway, 1972) set of videos '396Hz at 2000 frames/s – 88BPM at 1000 frames/s' (2013) featured a vibrating tuning fork and a metronome, each silently beating away in slow motion. Aesthetically beautiful, although with their function removed, these images invited the audience to decide for themselves what is important about music and how much a part visualisation plays in our understanding of sound.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was 'Lights flickering-as a documentation of pause featuring Mei-yi Lee' (2014) by Nishiko (Japan, 1981). Here the visual aspect – the flickering lights - had been removed from the equation, and all that was left in the stark white room was the sounds that the lights had been making.

Anri Sala's (Albania, 1974) video 'Air cushioned ride' involved driving round and round a truck stop in Arizona. As the car changed position radio signals from two stations intermixed and fought for dominance. Sala's choice was baroque but when the trucks blocked the signal a local country station could be heard. The baroque music was re-established each time they passed a truck with 'Air cushioned ride' emblazoned across its side.

On a similar travel theme was the installation 'Adam, Eve, others and a UFO' (2013) by Haroon Mirza (England, 1977). The UFO was a circlet of LED lights which as they were lit in sequence sent a signal to a speaker in a larger circle around the edge of the room. Each speaker had a different tone because it was from a different manufacturer, and the artist exploits this difference to produce a melodic line. Being in the darkened room with the sounds around you and the lights flickering on and off was a bit like being inside a spaceship – the composition itself brings to mind conversations where you cannot quite understand the other person, as well as mechanical sci-fi sound effects. The video does not do it justice but gives you an idea.

 'Ice age' (2014), by Rutger Zuydervelt at Marres House, Maastricht
 'Ice age' (2014), by Rutger Zuydervelt
Out in the garden were two more works. 'Ice age' (2014), by Rutger Zuydervelt (Netherlands 1978), transformed the ice house into a pitch black cave with the sound of water dripping, distant traffic, and low notes played on bass clarinet. Unable to see anything, and in a cold damp space, hearing took over and time became immaterial.

The final work was more humorous. Visiting 'Ryan Gander's (UK, 1976) 'Escape hatch to culturefield' (2012) involved finding a rusting grating tucked behind some bushes, from which emanated the music of Charles Mingus. For Gander the intent was to provide a 'starting point for other people imagination' – it was certainly the antidote to the previous, enclosed, claustrophobic experiences.

Undertones is spread over six venues from Marres House to the crypt of Sint Servaas Basilica and runs until late August 2014. How much or little you explore depends on you as single and multi-venue discounted tickets are available.
Reviewed by Hilary Glover
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