Have you ever been to a silent disco? No!? They are all the rage right now. Basically it’s a disco where everyone wears wireless headphones that can tune into different radio frequencies. Everyone gets to dance to the music genre that they choose while still socializing with mates and keeping the noise levels down. The most amazing part of a silent disco is when you take your headphones off, at any given time, to hear the hustle and bustle of people shuffling around the space without music. The oddity of more than 100 people moving in space without music blaring in the open is on the edge of surreal. Every now and then, you’ll hear a group of people belt out a lyric or stomp in unison to an invisible beat. Brandon LaBelle has recreated a similar situation in his work The Sonic Body at IMT Gallery.
For Brandon’s exhibition the audio capture of bodies dancing to music is projected into the space around wall-mounted speakers. The audio picks up the shuffles and unsynchronized footfalls corresponding to supposedly structured music. A tension occurs within myself as a viewer when I struggle between making sense and pattern out of the random noises. I think this comes from the prior knowledge that the performers are reacting to music. An interesting development in the piece takes place when the performers are asked to react and explore to their own sound in the space. A communication occurs between performers reacting to each other making for a more cohesive listening experience. Though at first still random, some sort of sense is achieved. As humans, we are programmed to strive and make sense out of the abstract. It is like trying to clap outside of the unison.
His second work captures a deaf performer reading John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing. Conceptually this is a neatly packaged piece with the performer exploring a text that focuses on the importance of silence being integrated into musical scores. The text gives significance to ambient sounds and how this can enrich the listening experience. Given this, a focus on the performer surfaces with the thought of him reiterating a concept that can be lost on the performer himself. Also added to this was the difficulty in actually hearing some of the words the performer was saying because his enunciation of certain words made the audio blend into the background and ambient noise. The title of the exhibition explains it all: LaBelle’s work calls out a focus on the body. It is amazing that we as listeners can manifest a physical presence of performance through just an audio recall.
-- David Yu
All Images courtesy IMT Gallery, London. Images top-bottom: Brandon LaBelle, Notes Toward a Sketch of a Sonic Body, IMT Gallery, 2010, Installation Views, Photographer Polly Rappaport