Review by David Vélez
I am reviewing this piece based on material sent by Richard Garet and the MOMA, and also based on documentation that I have collected over the past month. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend to the ‘A contemporary score’ exhibition but I feel entitled to write about this work that for some weeks have captured my attention.
As a reviewer and spectator I believe that I can choose not to take into consideration the motivation, ideas and concepts that the artist might have had behind the construction of a certain work; sometimes I prefer it this way in order to detach my experience from any external source other than the work itself and its formal presentation.
A powerful and successful piece of art should work without the need of an accompanying text. A work of art should be a catalyzer for personal experiences and interpretations operating as a fertile territory where metaphors and intimate individual lectures can grow.
When I enjoy a work of art in some way it becomes mine in the process.
The best way for me to talk about this installation is to first dissect it into parts:
There is a transparent marble placed in a circular metal plate with a profile.
The plate is placed on a turntable that makes it rotate generating centrifuge force.
The marble spins around its axis because of the friction but remains in the same place constrained by its own rotation and the profile of the metallic plate.
The needle of the turntable is ‘reading’ the profile of the metallic plate, and the sound of the spinning marble is taken by a microphone.
The two transducers (needle and mic) are connected to an amplifier and the subsequent speakers that finally project the sound. The projected sound of of the needle reading the metallic profiles of the plate and the marble spinning are calibrated so they don’t conceal the natural sound of the spinning marble.
Meaning and intensity.
The spinning marble is the formal and metaphorical core of the work spinning around while apparently immobile making for movement and stillness to occur simultaneously.
I feel empathy for the marble and its effortless condition while the friction and wearing out occurs. I feel a morbid pleasure to see the marble failing in its effort to advance.
The profile that constrains the marble is also keeping it from falling into the empty void. So many lectures can be inferred here.
This work points to the tragedy of this absurd display of effortless effort. Here a universe of meaning is revealed by this non-linear narrative construction of ideas and forms.
[‘Before me’ photo courtesy of the MOMA]
Zoom out: the reduced acoustics
Now we have these interconnected devices (the microphone, the needle, the turntable, the amplifier, the speakers) and the mediation occurring by these electromechanical processes.
A mediation that zooms out from the structural mechanical core of the work to its electronic periphery.
The sound. A sound that eventually detaches from its physical and creative and conceptual casualty.
We appropriate it. We make it ours when we take the sound and convert it into things and places shaped by our imagination.
On “Before me’ the hearing process seems to melt events and things into one simultaneous sound.
The marble, the needle, the mediation, the distortion, the signal loss. All of these elements produce this individual and beautiful sound, yet harsh and challenging.
A sound that contains all things and a sound that is also contained in all things.
A sound that is dooming like the effortless doomed marble.
A sound that is pleasant and joyful as our empathy with the marble’s tragedy.
In a universe under constant displacement, change and movement, I nevertheless remain in the same place through my entire life: I am always here.
Some visual aspects
Richard Garet picked mostly old sound equipment for this installation but this is a subject that for some reason I didn’t not focus much through my research. I just assume this wasn’t just a visual consideration but that sound-media decisions were also involved on this process.
‘Before me’ is a great example of how to deal with all the formal and conceptual aspects involved in sound art installations and how the effective correlation between them allows for meaningful pleasant personal lectures and experiences in the audience.
[Richard Garet; photo courtesy of Mandragoras Space]
* Upper photo courtesy of Feast of Music