Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Frequency and Volume meets Babel

Posted in Reviews by luizateixeiradefreitas on November 18, 2008
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Frequency and Volume; Cildo Meireles, Babel

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Frequency and Volume; Cildo Meireles, Babel

For its eighth Curve Art commission, the Barbican Art Gallery has invited the artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The artist has taken over the awkward curved space and created the installation Frequency and Volume.

When entering the curve, there is a ninety-metre long interactive installation. Walking through this installation, ones own body becomes the instrument of tuning and volume for each of the 48 radios that Lozano-Hemmer has incorporated into this complex, computerized system of broadcasting. “Without the public, the pieces cannot unfold”, said the artist. Each step gives way to a different frequency – music, news, white noise. At the same time the viewer’s shadow is being projected on the gallery’s wall, working as the volume setter for the radios – the closest to the wall the higher the sound.

Being there twice on different days I had two completely different experiences. One was a quiet introspective walk through the installation, where it was my choice what to hear, where to stop, how to manage the work. On the other hand, experiencing it on a Sunday packed with people, it was like being in a shadow theatre, there was no control whatsoever of people’s movements and the cacophony in the installation was unbearable – in some way it felt as being in Babel.

Not far from the Barbican, just across the Millennium Bridge in Tate Modern’s far West End, is currently the exhibition of Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles. Standing tall in a corner room is the impressive five-metre tower built of radios, Babel. The base is made of very old radios that could probably belong to our great grandfather’s collection, the rest of the tower is completed by a wide variety of all kinds of radios. The artist found them in flea markets around Brazil. The room is lit in a very celestial blue, a tone that doesn’t exist in real life. The radios are all turned on, each one in is tuned in a different frequency and their dials produce innumerous points of light throughout the room. It varies from pop music, to news broadcast, to sometimes only the white noise of an untuned radio. Coming into the room, its title’s analogy is completely obvious. It could be the real thing.

Two different artists, from two different backgrounds, working under two different medias that speak to the public in two very different ways, end up creating, for the viewer, a thin line of concurrence.

Although having a 30-year gap between their making, both the works equally appeal to a sense of liberty and freedom over the political order, something that in many ways has remained immutable. They equally criticize the amount of information that is sent out through the media and the chaos this creates in everyday life.

Meireles builds a symbolic monumental tower that comes as a conduit for so many critiques of society; at the same time, Lozano-Hemmer describes himself as a designer of anti-monuments that are critiques to the fetish of power representation. Be it coincidence or paradox, there is without doubt an encounter between both installations.

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