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Sometimes Always: Listening in on Audio Art

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax Jun 5 to Aug 30 2009
Craig Leonard  <I>Adventures on the Wheels of Steel</I>  2009  Installation view  /  photo Steve Farmer Craig Leonard Adventures on the Wheels of Steel 2009 Installation view / photo Steve Farmer

Craig Leonard <I>Adventures on the Wheels of Steel</I> 2009 Installation view / photo Steve Farmer

Obsolete technologies and anachronistic electronic devices are cleverly resuscitated by 10 international artists in “Sometimes Always,” a new exhibition opening this week at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Co-organized with the Centre for Art Tapes and presented in tandem with Sound Bytes, Halifax’s month-long audio art festival, the show harnesses the nostalgia associated with outmoded media to reflect on our shifting emotional connections to technology.

Several projects reinvest antiquated technologies such as eight-track players and audiocassettes with new artistic potential. Local artist Craig Leonard modifies bicycle wheels into low-fi musical instruments by adding duct-tape patterns to the spokes. When spun like records, the "wheels of steel" interact with oscillators to produce a unique series of pitches and tones determined by the viewer. Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based Clive Murphy transforms discarded cassette tape into sculptural material in his audio-kinetic landscape drawings such as Untitled (Never Gonna Be Alone).

Other installations concentrate on processes of collecting, preserving and archiving discontinued formats through ongoing performances in the gallery space. Montreal-Halifax collective Artifact Institute conducts a “techno-archaeological dig for electronics” from local arts institutions in a pseudo-scientific lab setting, while Eleanor King’s performance-installation, Obso-less-sense, transforms an overwhelming volume of discarded appliances into playful assemblages. Taken together, these whimsical appropriations of outmoded media raise interesting questions about the implications of mechanical progress and the role of artists in drawing our attention to our transforming technological relationships. (1723 Hollis St, Halifax NS)

This article was first published online on June 11, 2009.

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