Taxonomy of Sound

“Distinct Factures. A Return from Langsdorff” (solo exhibition by Cédric Maridet)

2P Contemporary Art Gallery (G/F, 23 Po Tuck Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong) Oct 18 – Dec 5, 2012

French artist Cédric Maridet describes his recent solo exhibition as a wunderkammer — a room of curiosities where artists and scholars from the Renaissance onwards displayed eclectic objects not yet defined or categorized. One can find this depiction infelicitous — the exhibition appears to exist as one whole organism constructed by a continual churning and proliferation of primary materials. The words one sees on the works are epitomized through layers of historical references and scientific methodical codification. Through Maridet’s artistic treatment, this torrent of information creates minimal and exquisite interpretations of the coexistence of two parallel microcosms

This series of works originated in Maridet’s field-recording trips in the rainforests of the Amazon and Penang’s National Park. Reexamining fieldwork theory, the artist dwells on Jacob von Uexkull’s idea of umwelten — different spatio-temporal worlds connected by “factures” [1]. Maridet analyzes and reconstructs the sound reality of microcosms — in this case the beehive and the rainforest itself — and materializes the data and experience in the form of prints, video, installation, and sound composition. He samples aspects of these two “bodies” from an observable distance, and situates the spectators in an external position beyond language, thereby attempting to question our ontological certitudes of the everyday world.

Continuing his appropriation of sound and space through the work “Biocenose,” Maridet plants two transducers at the bottom of the glass door of the gallery and expands its full façade into the playback medium — the door carries the voice of a man and a woman reciting taxonomical terms that are also displayed on the long roll of cardboard book pages laid out to the side. The recording rotates through unfamiliar Latinate terms. In the end, the peculiar utterances create an acoustically beautiful composition.

The installation “The Soft Science Cabinet, Apis Cerana” consists of a stainless steel cabinet in which dead bees, honeycomb, hive residue held in lab glassware, and two beeswax LPs that resonate with a third one spinning on a turntable a meter away. The needle hovers over the rotating wax plate, creating a tension in which a perfect surface flirts with destruction. A 35-minute sound piece features an emotionless reading of a piece of research on bee habits; the track is edited with sound that was carefully captured in a beehive, with the bee buzz adding a background hum to the voice. Eventually this long talk about an alien-seeming species takes over one’s thoughts through the immersive sonic experience, elevating the listener to a strange level where narration is completely lost in the limitations of rational human perspectives relative to the existence and life of another being

“Navigating Langsdorff” is a set of three embossed prints. These abstract and minimal graphics are pencil markings on sonograms processed by computer analysis of photographs that the artist took in Penang. Meanwhile, “Latent, Still” shows two looping videos of trees and shadows; two saplings are placed vertically from the ceiling, sprouting in the air.

Maridet represents an intimate, primarily sonic experience in unexpected formats. He adapts the early method of sound visualizations — making notations by time and frequency intervals, and drawing a clear line between rationality and sensual pleasure. The gallery space he created is sounding out, growing and disclosing traces of decay, in the hope this will incubate new ways of interpretation and perception. This nonetheless puts weight on our faculty of hearing, so often blinded by visual stimuli that our eyes cannot detect in an age of visual supremacy.

[1] Pierre Schaeffer’s theory of sound object as the qualitative criteria that sustain sound or the way that the sonorous energy is communicated in manifests itself in time.

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