"PICKS | With Hidden Noise at Wave Hill, New York"

Artforum.com
September 16, 2016

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“With Hidden Noise”
WAVE HILL
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue
May 23–July 6


Stephen Vitiello, Finding Pictures in Search of Sounds, 2008, mixed media, dimensions variable.

“With Hidden Noise,” a sound installation curated by artist Stephen Vitiello and organized by Independent Curators International, benefits greatly from its location just outside Manhattan, nestled in a quiet public garden in the Bronx. The exhibition consists of just a few speakers in an otherwise empty space, looping a selection of work by some of today’s leading sonic artists, such as Michael J. Schumacher and Pauline Oliveros. Yet the installation also encompasses the surrounding architecture, the shifting levels of natural light, and the competing white noise. The wall text asks visitors to listen “with ears they may not know they had”: to focus not only on the nuances of each piece but the act of that sense itself. This is an exhibition about listening, wherein Vitiello traces a lineage for contemporary sound art in the charged silences of Fluxus performances, as in John Cage’s seminal 4'33", which forced audience members to acknowledge the sounds of the concert space or of their own restless bodies.

In the spirit of Fluxus, close listening and curiosity are rewarded throughout a diverse selection of works; we search for the origins of sounds, be they borrowed or invented, digital or analog, scored or spontaneous. Several pieces foreground contrast: Jennie C. Jones’s Piccolo Largo, 2008/2011, sets the titular instrument’s high, extended siren against a fast-paced tuba score. Steve Roden’s ambrotos, 2011, creates an ambient soundscape through patient repetition. In the curator’s own contribution, Yellow (from Four Color Sound), 2008, sharp, metallic currents blend with organic instrumental tones. Throughout each piece, noises jump between channels, circulating from one speaker to the next and revealing the inherently spatial quality of sound.