“Sunset Vacuum Plug,” group exhibition with Guan Xiao, Han Wuzhou, Wang Guangxu.
Taikang Space (Red No.1-B2, Caochangdi, Cuigezhuang, Chaoyang District, Beijing). Sept 27 – Nov 17, 2012.
Of the three artists’ works in the exhibition “Sunset Vacuum Plug,” those of Han Wuzhou strike one for their note of volition. The term “sound art” is perhaps inadequate for these five pieces, enacting as they do a restrictive or complicated relationship with noise and its production.
The “Vacuum” of the show’s title comes from the eponymous work (2011) by Han in the second room. A single speaker, facing upwards, is encased closely inside a bell jar. Attached is a motor running a vacuum, which unsparingly sucks the sound away in what is a great metaphor for situations in which the clear expression of something is frustrated and its sentiment lost — pulled, literally, from its speaker. In the first room of the exhibition, a further two works — “Hidden Words” (2010) and “Speeches” (2011), show microphones dipped in plaster or wrapped as if in a chrysalis, this time blocking the path of sound by the intervention of their materials. Theirs is an aura not only of containment from the outside, but also of inhibition – the physical manifestation of impediments from within. Finally, there is the sculpture “Stone” (2010), in which a microphone – its cord rendered rigid and sticking up into space – meets a piece of rock with expectant, awkward proximity and “Piano e Forte” (2011), for which small stones (mounted on the ends of wooden poles, to be pressed by foot) are set up to hit pick-axe and shovel heads in an ungainly display of musicality.
In sum, a brief but potent performance of sensations made concrete through art — works which speak loudly, even as they complicate the audible.