Sunday, October 3, 2021

ArtScience Museum's Orchestral Manoeuvres Exhibition - An Eclectic Ear-Opening Aural Adventure

For most of us, it is easier to grasp an idea or imagine a subject through pictures. After all, humans beings are highly visual creatures, and we process faster based on what we see. So, to be able to explore sound through different visual and mixed media ways, is what makes ArtScience Museum's current exhibition called ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES: SEE SOUND. FEEL SOUND. BE SOUND particularly intriguing.

Curated by Adrian George, Director of Exhibitions at ArtScience Museum, with Amita Kirpalani, Curator at ArtScience Museum, the exhibition is presented over nine galleries. They consist of noise-making sculptures, paintings, videos, music, and works by over 32 artists and composers from eight countries.

To take you on an aural adventure and give you a few notes of the exhibitions varying soundscapes, Red Dot Diva has included links to a few videos that she has uploaded to her Instagram account.


This first section features a huge exhibit called Rage Fluids by Hannah Perry. Made out of steel auto parts in a pleasing copper-rose-gold hue, it is a juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity that vibrates and creates a large roar like a racing car. Red Dot Diva recommends standing right in between the curved steel and let the loud engine sounds envelope your aural senses.

Pic by Artscience Museum

Red Dot Diva has not heard of Performing Objects before, so this is the first time she is understanding what they are about, and it is quite a mind warp!

Three nondescript boxes are placed together, each one emitting sounds from within. The earliest object is American artist Robert Morris (Box with the Sound of Its Own Making), which produces 3 hours of sounds related to the box's making like hammering and sawing. Essentially, it is performing its own history.

Ashley Zelinskie's Cube with the Sound of its Own Printing pays tribute to Morris' sculpture, while Timm Ulrichs' Radio consists of a transistor radio that is still picking up and broadcasting analogue signals.


This segment is Red Dot Diva's favourite in the exhibit because the pieces here are so eclectic and memorable.

Once you have seen Chinese artist Chen Zhen's odd looking Chair of Concentration, you would not be able to forget it. Each time you use your headphones, you might start to remember the chamber pots used in the sculpture!

Taiwanese artist Hsiao Sheng-Chien's kinetic pieces are such a delight! The sculptures made mostly of wood and other items like turntables, gears and computer chips, produce sounds evocative of a lost forest. Cicadas buzzes, bird chips and gentle creaks of a branches in the wind. It was like being in the cabin that the Vertigo comic book character Sweet Tooth was brought up in. Red Dot Diva found it soothing to stand there, take in the sonic landscape of nature, and feel mentally centred for awhile.

The other pieces in this room, like Singapore artist Zul Mahmod's Resonance in Frames 2 and 3 and deaf artist Christine Sun Kim's interesting visualising of sound, were also intriguing.


Many of us are familiar with how a modern musical score looks like, but have you seen ancient musical notations? This section exhibits photo of scores from Babylon to the beautifully notated Tibetan religious chants.

Then, there is the brashly colourful Mel Brimfield’s 4’ 33” (Prepared Pianola for Roger Bannister) that is equally as loud. The commissioned piece celebrates the 1952 Helsinki Olympic race, and consists of a self-playing piano, percussion instruments and horns. It is a performance art on its own, stridently blaring out John Cage’s 1952 composition 4’33, complex scores as well as the British National Anthem and BBC TV’s Ski Sunday theme. Hit the big red button on the exhibit at your own risk!


After experiencing the ear-ringing scoring from the previous section, Inner Voice takes things down several notches as it explores about sound memory. Or in modern speak, "ear worms" - those songs that you cannot get our of your head.

People who look karaoke, and are hardcore fans of certain bands, will smile when watching a music video installation titled dunia tak akan mendengar by artist Phil Collins. Filmed in Indonesia, it shows fans of The Smiths singing recorded karaoke versions of their entire 1987 compilation album, The World Won’t Listen.

Pic by Artscience Museum

Watching a video of Samson Young’s Muted Situation #5: Muted Chorus is a most unusual aural experience, showcasing the parts of sounds people may choose to silence or amplify. Instead of singing musical notes of a chorus, a chamber choir called The Hong Kong Voices perform the breaths they take between singing musical notes of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part 5 (Movement 1, Movements 4/11 Chorales). In so doing, other sounds come into the forefront, like inhalations and the rustling of music scores.

There is also an energetic video titled Dancing in Peckham showing British artist Gillian Wearing dancing in the street to a private soundtrack that she remembers, but is unheard to the observer or audience.


Have you ever felt as if you are standing in the middle of a choir as an audience member? That is how The Forty Part Motet by Canadian artist Janet Cardiff sounds like.

Each voice is recorded separately and emanates from its own speaker. So, the music and 40-part choir's beautiful singing surrounds and flows over you in a most glorious way. Absolutely sublime!


Red Dot Diva had a lot of fun with this playful section is a part exhibition. There are creatively constructed, interactive sound sculptures or totems made of everyday objects like clothes pegs, vacuum tubes, cooking utensils and plastic cups. You can tap on the pedals on each totem to trigger sounds. When you have other friends or visitors with you, you can play the sound totems together to make create an orchestra!

There is also a piano that you can play in The Stage Is Yours section. Well, if you cannot play the piano, even the tapping of feet or clapping of hands can make music!


Everyone loves cat videos, right? So to wrap things up, here is a video art meme by Cory Arcangel's Drei Klavierstücke op. 11, where he has strung together clips of cute kitties walking across pianos to the tune of Arnold Schoenberg's masterpiece op. 11 Drei Klavierstücke (Three Piano Pieces). It is the hallmark of the digital era that we now live in, as hilarious as it is.

The Orchestral Manoeuvres exhibition runs from now till 2 January 2022 at the Artscience Museum. It is an unusual exhibition that opens your mind to the different ways sound can be seen, heard and perceived.

If you are keen for a different kind of day out, tickets to the exhibit are available at this link: Due to safe distancing measures, it is recommended that you pre-book for your time slot.

No comments:

Post a Comment