Bruce Nauman Days & SOUNDWORKS at the ICA
The ICA’s presentation of Bruce Nauman’s Days represents an exciting number of firsts for many reasons: it is the UK premiere of the work of one of the most influential artists of our time and offers a thought-provoking meditation on how we measure and interact with the days of our lives. The themes of this seminal work are used as a pioneering point of inspiration for the accompanying Soundworks series – a collaborative exhibition of audio works from over 100 artists from all over the world.
Through its online presentation, Soundworks has established an internationally accessible virtual exhibition that audiences will be able to enjoy wherever they are in the world. The ICA also hopes that the mobile nature of the exhibition will encourage people to engage with art while on the move, as well as attract a global network of audience members. As the show’s curator Anna Gritz explains, audio art works particularly well as an interactive, collaborative medium: “sound is ephemeral, it connects spaces but is hard to capture and seeps through the cracks.” Art and technology cohere to further effect through with the use of innovative Jambox audio – wireless speakers that create an atmospheric ‘3D’ sound in the exhibition space, as well as the interactive, scroll-through arrangement of the artists’ submissions, both online and in the exhibition hall itself.
The recordings range from the whimsical to the profound – Alejandro Cesarco’s piece, for example, consists of his reading his name aloud at the speed at which it would be heard if he were on the moon. Equally playful is Darius Mikšys’ sound montage of ‘90s radio excerpts that give a lively impression of how his music taste has evolved over the years. In contrast, performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti’s graver sound piece incorporates the pulsing sounds of a chemotherapy treatment machine. Renowned artist and theorist Brandon LaBelle’s contribution is more clearly influenced by Nauman’s work on Days, with his reading the same sentence everyday but in different locations, allowing for accidental noise and atmosphere to beautifully interplay and merge with his own voice. The breadth and variety of these works is remarkable, and demonstrates how, with the advances in technology, sound has become a viable, stimulating practice for artists of all disciplines and backgrounds.
What remains most striking, however, is the work that started it all: Bruce Nauman’s Days. Having previously been exhibited at both the 53rd Venice Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it now finds a home in the beautifully-lit lower gallery of the ICA. It consists of fourteen flat panel speakers with one voice repeating the days of the week between each pair of speakers as you pass through them. This creates an almost physical audio presence, almost as if the sound is creating solid columns that must be waded or broken through. It speaks volumes on the monotony – but also the unyielding continuity – of our daily lives. For any cynics who might dismiss audio or acoustic art as an inferior or inherently transitory medium, Nauman’s Days acts as a powerful reminder of how lasting, impactful works can be created using sound.
Bruce Nauman Days: 19th June – 16th September 2012
Soundworks: 20th June – 16th September 2012