TO HEAR IS TO SEE/HÖREN IST SEHEN, currently on view at the Triangle Project Space, is the culmination of a 10-years-plus collaborative project. The exhibition features more than 100 sound works, each paired with a photo and text. The first showing was in 1996, and with each subsequent exhibition the collection has grown. It has toured South and Central America, made a stop in Toronto, and is retiring with this final installment in San Antonio. Close to 150 artists are represented, counting the photographers chosen as collaborators by some of the sound artists. To listen to all of the works would take more than two days. The inability to experience the entirety of the installation is its only real downfall. It is also nearly impossible to discuss a singular work or artist; the exhibition is best perceived as a whole. An evolution of the medium over a timespan, it represents the influence of technology on both our aural world and the artists’ abilities to capture, create, and manipulate sound.
Upon entering TPS to view HÖREN IST SEHEN, I was engaged immediately in a strangely interactive and removed experience. Being a Sunday, the gallery was closed and its proprietors were on business in Mexico. After being let in, I called gallery co-director Peter Glassford on his cell phone and proceeded to turn on the sound installation under his instruction. First, I had to connect the transmitter to a small car battery — white wire to the negative terminal, red to the positive. I feared blowing up the battery, frying the transmitter, and maybe even melting the precariously close Mac laptop. But the instructions were simple and I succeeded.
The sound files, stored in the iTunes of the Mac could now be played across the short airwaves to the boom box receiver nonchalantly placed on a pedestal in the middle of the adjoining gallery. It has the feel of pirate radio and though I am uncertain if the small broadcast is illegal, I like to think I might have been breaking a few laws.
The sense of awe and excitement does not end there. A single line of black-and-white photos paired with text wrap the gallery walls all the way around. Each photo is also stored in the Mac as a marker with the sound file, creating an index by which to see and match the works. I am not certain that at the exhibition’s current size this is necessary. I found this task a bit daunting and much preferred letting chance determine whether I would see the photo, read the text, and hear the sound together. The photos appear to represent everything from reaction to inspiration, and the writings are a mixture of poetry, narration, description, and philosophy — an anthology of what sound means to each artist.
The sound works themselves are amazingly different and yet the same. Created by artists from varied backgrounds, including some musicians, the pieces range from white noise to layered conversations, city sounds to those of nature. I could have danced to one, while another was certain to cause a headache, and one conversation bled into another, only the subtle change in language a delayed cue that one work ended and another began. The small boom box easily fills the large empty room without overpowering the gallery. I experienced a total loss of time, even space. The white cube could have been anywhere. Some works were under a minute, while others extended to almost an hour. The experience could be described as any moment or great dream, and inspires the desire to listen more carefully to our world. •
TO HEAR IS TO SEE/HÖREN IST SEHEN
Through Apr 19
Triangle Project Space
416 E. LaChapelle St.