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The Absent Sense at RAMP Gallery

Somewhere out in the universe decaying stars that have morphed into deep black holes are converging and churning up space and time in a terrible cataclysmic process.. If an astronaut happened to be floating by in the vicinity, they would hear, (if still alive at that point) the sound the collision made. The sound might be a ringing or groaning, or screaming at a pitch high or low enough to reverberate throughout the eons of spacetime, for all time, eventually reaching us here on the planet. It might take a billion years but by the time it did reach us it would be so faint as to be ‘impossible‘ to hear.

But machines are being built 4 square kilometres across, somewhere in America to pick up this sound and allow us to eavesdrop on these soft discordant cosmic notes.

We call that, science.

In New Zealand we put sensitive microphones down among the grapes to hear them fermenting. Or at least Kent Macpherson does, Master of Arts graduate in Music from Wintec.  

This is not an exercise in listening to the Music of the Spheres but rather a chance for an audience to hear the “hidden symphonies” located in the process whereby the grape morphs into wine.

This is called, art.

The Absent Sense is an exhibition showing at Ramp Gallery, Hamilton – a “special audio installation” devised by Macpherson in which he recorded over a 48 hour period the “sound” of wines in their first fermenting stages.

Inside the gallery a kind of stage setting has been constructed where the viewer, or more importantly the listener, is enveloped in surround sound accompanied by partitions of wine stained white cloth, draped curtain-like to provide a structural spatial device to encounter the music in. This setting was provided for by designer Dean Dunne. 

What one hears is a continuous cacophony of gurgling, farting, bubbling, thumping, popping, dripping, slushing, oozing, dribbling sounds; nature at her fecund best. This is the lush, teeming fructifying noise of the earth concocting a brew that will eventually come, in its end form, to tickle the palette of the connoisseur. It is the sound of the making of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling at Felton Road winery in Bannockburn, Central Otago, at $63 a bottle, courtesy of winemaker, Blair Walters.

Accompanying the slosh and splashing ooze one hears from a dozen speakers placed round the small gallery is a video representation of the sound played out graphically on screen that presents as a glacial formation growing and dancing before our eyes.

These “sound documentaries” are an attempt to alert us to the subtle nuances otherwise muted in the world around us. One is reminded of the work of American composer and music theorist, John Cage, and his famous 4’33 in its bid to attune the ear to sounds heard but not heard.

From macrocosm to microcosm via art and science, we are confronted with an enlargement of sensual experience and Kent Macpherson with his sonic art brings the world of the absent sense closer to our attention. 

Peter Dornauf


Images courtesy of RAMP Gallery

This entry was posted in: Reviews

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