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Subtle Technologies Festival presents en. morendo

In musical composition the words “en. morendo” indicate a piece should be played as if “fading into nothingness,” or, in other words, a sound that slowly dies. In contrast, this term can also be interpreted to mark a sudden change in tempo, and more often one that alters the entire mood of the piece. In this spirit, the works presented in this exhibition evoke notions of decay and deterioration but in ways that focus less on ‘the end’ so much as notions of transference and passing from one form to another.

Mitchell Akiyama’s works draws our attention to the way that sounds can be internalized, made through and within the body (whether living or not); Andrew Zealley’s video Cienfuegos centres on silence and looping as simultaneous modes of grieving and meditation—the potentials of silence and repetition are both overwhelming and empowering; Alexandra Gelis’ Lumbalú pumps out fragments of a nine-day Afro-Columbian funerary song and involves the user’s body in the re-staging of that transformative event.

As part of the 18th Annual Subtle Technologies Festival, this exhibition of diverse approaches to sound art centres on the transformative potential of the afterlife and the act of passing from one state into another.
Participating Artists / Artworks:
Alexandra Gelis
Lumbalú, [awaiting dimensions] (2014)
This work is an interactive sculpture using an old-fashioned water pump (the kind found in the centres of old villages). Engaging the pump powers an amplifier placed inside to play fragments of a soundtrack—an extremely rare recording of a Lumbalú or Afro-Colombian singing ritual to assist the spirit of the deceased in its journey to the afterworld. This ritual can last up to nine days and typically involves the entire village, taking shifts in a choir. The entirety of this ritual is captured in Gelis’ piece, but, poetically, can only be heard in precious fragments due to the manual labour of producing the sound.

Andrew Zealley
Cienfuegos, video installation, 12:45 min, looping (2011)
In Cienfuegos, fire takes the form of a visual mantra through a performative sequence of lighting one hundred wooden matchsticks, each match lit from the previous. Elemental in alchemy and shamanism, fire here represents infinite energy and the intensity of silence acts as a conducer for the image. As a meditation on the continuum of spirit, the title is literal (one hundred fires) and also functions as an homage to Santiago-based artist and educator, Rodrigo Cienfuegos, a collaborator and friend of the artist.

Mitchell Akiyama
Ur-Sound, photograph: 20” x 15” (framed), record player – 14” d x 17.5” w x 5” h (2012)
This work asks the question: “Is there a primordial sound?” Presented with a record player and a photograph of a human skull, listeners hear pre-recorded audio of a phonograph needle being run along the coronal suture of a skull—where left and right hemispheres of the brain connect. The record that plays the sound is itself set into a lock groove that wears deeper and deeper into the vinyl imitating and reflecting the anatomy that it’s born from.

Third Ear, felt, plywood, electronics – 15.5” d x 10” w x 10” h (2012)
As a deaf composer, it was rumoured that Beethoven often composed while biting down on something to feel the notes of his piano in his inner ear. And, as anatomy proves, the teeth are in fact an alternate route to the eardrum, bypassing our sense of touch and other vibrational sensors altogether. In this work, a single dowel extends from a felt box that houses an internal speaker. Biting down on the dowel channels the vibrations of a Beethoven symphony into the teeth, through the jaw and eventually into the ear, creating a prosthetic or third ear for the body to experience sound in an uncanny and palpable manner.