Canadian Art


Sometimes Always: Sound Effects

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax Jun 5 to Aug 30 2009
Eleanor King <i>Obso-less-sense</i> 2009 Installation view / photo Steve Farmer Eleanor King Obso-less-sense 2009 Installation view / photo Steve Farmer

Eleanor King <i>Obso-less-sense</i> 2009 Installation view / photo Steve Farmer

Though it may come as a surprise to many iPod fans, vinyl albums are still culturally relevant—even online merchants like host vinyl stores. Yet for every turntable still spinning, there are piles of abandoned 8-track players choking landfills. “Sometimes Always,” an exhibition of 10 artists at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (co-curated by Robert Zingone of the AGNS and John Mathews of the Centre for Art Tapes), is a clever, playful examination of our preoccupation with audio technologies and our insatiable lust for the latest electronic devices.

A faintly musty pawnshop odour emanates from Eleanor King’s room of sculptures, Obso-less-sense. In this crazed, post-apocalyptic bunker, stacks of VCRs, tuners, televisions and monitors beg for human intervention; a child-sized record player spins unattended while CD-player trays hungrily lie open. King’s work frequently deals with the environmental consequences of mundane decisions; here, she includes an older installation, Cuppa Cups Collection, which consists of discarded Tim Hortons cups. Here, they snake up a wall and over the ceiling, almost touching a stack of VHS movie boxes.

Like King, Halifax’s Artifact Institute (Tim Dallett and Adam Kelly) recognizes that artists can be consuming gearheads as much as computer nerds. For their performative installation, Artifact Institute is mining new value from old machines. During the exhibition, the gallery is housing Dallett and Kelly’s relocated lab and warehouse, where they’ve methodically catalogued and, ideally, repurposed outdated technology discarded by various Halifax cultural institutions. Essentially, they’ve developed a working museum of electronic components. If only that clunky old CBC video camera could talk.

Other artists focus more on the possibility and performative nature of content than on its delivery, such as German Dadaist and electronic musician Felix Kubin’s absurdly delightful lo-fi, low-budget videos and record-playing zoetrope. Craig Leonard knows that the DJ is the most powerful person at the party: with his addictive Adventures on the Wheels of Steel, Leonard encourages visitors to control sound with hand-built turntables. A series of bicycle wheels, patterned with duct tape, sit on a wall like a record collection. Pick one, pop it on the plywood box and “play,” varying unmarked knobs that control pitch, tone and volume.

New York’s Clive Murphy searches for abandoned audio cassettes—which oddly still linger on urban fences and bushes—and patiently extracts portions of the audio. This he digitally transfers and re-records onto fresh tape. The new tape (here, a bouncing techno track) is stretched and played out over the wall through a landscape-like audio-kinetic drawing. Murphy recalls a nostalgic history of DIY mix tapes (more recently finding form in mash-ups) where anyone could take pre-recorded music, customize and share it with the world—or perhaps just a single special someone.

The inclusion of analog enthusiast Russ Forster’s zine 8-Track Mind and Factotum’s newspaper The Vacuum suggests that the “Sometimes Always” curators’ next project could well explore the looming obsolescence of print. (1723 Hollis St, Halifax NS)

This article was first published online on August 6, 2009.


  • Sometimes Always: Listening in on Audio Art

    LPs, eight-tracks and cassette tapes all get creatively revamped in “Sometimes Always,” an exhibition of audio-related art in Halifax. Just don’t expect to see any iPods—these works harness nostalgia more so than newness.

  • David R Harper: As for Me and My Horse

    In the last few years, the young Nova Scotia–based artist David R. Harper has generated considerable intrigue with his unusual sculptures of embroidered animals. Harper’s latest work, on exhibit at Calgary’s Stride Gallery to May 9, continues this practice.

  • Vacation Visits: Cross-Canada Shows to Catch During the Break

    Too cold to toboggan, but too cabin-feverish to stay home? Fortunately, the holiday break’s a great time to check out museum shows. Here’s Canadian Art’s suggested vacation visits from the west coast to the east.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem