Cuchifritos Gallery: (a(version)s)
Review by Lynnette Miranda
Originally published on this is tomorrow: Contemporary Art Magazine
Installation View. (a(version)s), 2016. Cuchifritos Gallery, New York (Photo Bill Massey)
(a(version)s),’ presented at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, highlights the original compositions
Embedded on one dubplate, an acetate disc similar to a vinyl record, the sonic works are played out loud through one turntable and two standing speakers, at the centre of the gallery. The immersive installation contains an individual seat facing the turntable and speakers, where the listener is invited to play, handle, and control the record. Ten sound compositions flow seamlessly one after the other until the record must be flipped to its B-side.
Using an autobiographical approach, ‘A Bag of Cassettes Vol.1’ by Basel Abbas is reminiscent of turning the dial on an AM/FM radio that catches fleeting sound bites of music, commercials, and conversation. Abbas splices, distorts, and stitches audio from childhood cassette tapes. The compilation of these diverse
Three pieces by Lawrence Abu Hamdan isolate distinct moments that vaguely reflect the climate of contemporary culture and critically respond to our globalized society. ‘The Chipmunk in the Court of Saddam’ turns testifying voices in defence of Saddam Hussein during his trial into squeaky, high-pitched caricatures—a symbol of the fraught relationship between the West and the Middle East. ‘Animal Rights AKA: MGM’s Lion: The first sonic theft’ spotlights the iconic MGM lion roar, which was the first copyrighted ‘non-musical’ sound. The nine-second piece points to the absurdity of capitalism and its imperialist tendencies to assume everything can be owned. In ‘FRE Speech 6.0,’ the artist copies instructional audio for voice verification technology from an Israeli company, linking the tensions between security and freedom. The artist’s minimal manipulation and subtle editing in these separate pieces are in themselves a commentary and critique where the listener must interpret autonomously.
Sound—ephemeral and permeable—transcends through space, time, and dimension. The artists in ‘(a(version)s)’ establish a collective narrative that considers the influence of sound and its processes. Furthermore, the experimental exhibition is a space where listeners are actively engaged. Directly above the speakers, the listener encounters wall text that references the legacy of Halim El Dabh, an Egyptian composer and a pioneer of electronic music. It also defines the role of the listener within the installation. The end of the text reads poetically yet, assertively: “The scratches and dirt on this record are traces of those who listened, held, and amplified the sounds before you, a long slow feedback loop which you are now implicated.” The listener becomes
Published on February 17, 2016