In the summer of 2019, a group of international artists converged to explore the ideas of Materials, Sounds + Black Mountain College. Curated by Caleb Kelly, this exhibition focused on the making of sound through materials, inspired by Black Mountain College artists such as Anni Albers and John Cage.

The artists in Materials, Sounds + Black Mountain College challenge the stability of materials in their practice. Handmade instruments and electronics, recycled electronic components, outmoded technologies, fake technologies, imagined sounds, and silences formed a series of dynamic installations that challenge the way we think about materiality in a cumulative sound experience. We invite you to look, and listen, back at the exhibition through this short film by D. Forest Gamble.

The work by the artists has a lineage in the experimental practices developed by artists and students at Black Mountain College. Newly commissioned works were exhibited alongside archival ephemera and works from the BMCM+AC permanent collection that demonstrate experimental and materials-based processes. Works by artists from Australia, New York, and Western North Carolina were composed by curator Caleb Kelly to explore the sensory potential of the gallery. For more information on each installation in the exhibition, please expand the images below.

Material Sound at Home is a new virtual experience that expands these ideas within the context of the COVID-19 global crisis. Artists from the exhibition, Peter Blamey, Vicky Browne, Pia van Gelder, and Jenn Grossman, explore Material Sound through original performances recorded from their homes and home studios across Australia and in New York.

Sensing the senses

Caleb Kelly is an academic, event director, and curator working in the area of the sound arts. In his book Gallery Sound, Kelly examines the role of sound in the gallery experience. Gallery Sound argues for the importance of all sounds heard within the walls of art spaces, and in doing so pays attention not only to the deliberate inclusion of sound within the art gallery in the form of artworks, performances, and music, but also to its incidental ambient sounds, and to the noise generated by audiences. More than this, however, Gallery Sound brings our attention to the ways in which the acoustic characteristics specific to gallery spaces have been creatively mined by artists, ushering in entirely new art forms.

In the video below, Caleb Kelly explains how he composes the gallery space and how the act of sensing our senses can open up our experience of the world in and out of the gallery.

Peter Blamey

Double Partial Eclipse, solar panels, lightbulbs, electric guitar.
Note: Video contains strobing lights.

Peter Blamey is a Sydney-based artist, working across performance, video, recording and installation. His work explores the interconnected themes of energies and residues—often through reimagining and recasting our everyday encounters with technologies and the physical world—and also our experiences of energy generation, use and wastage. His work has been exhibited in both artist-run and institutional settingsIn 2014, Peter took part in the Instrument Builders Project, a collaboration between Australian and Indonesian artists, with exhibitions in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. He has also performed extensively over the last nineteen years, including appearances at festivals such as Avantwhatever, What is Music?, Electrofringe, Liquid Architecture, ISEA, and Cementa_13 & 15. In 2018, Peter released the CD Five Fertile Exchanges on UK label Consumer Waste. 

Double Partial Eclipse is a live energy-harvesting performance, which uses two solar panels to glean energy off a light bulb to power two ebows on an electric guitar.

Vicky Browne

Foyer, multimedia installation (Galerie Pompom) featuring the piece Work/Play.

Vicky Browne is a New Zealand artist based in the Blue Mountains of Australia whose work engages in sound as a core theme. Browne works in a speculative manner, building her own record players, iPods, and radios out of found materials, and it is this handmade quality that reveals a close connection to materials. Her work has been exhibited in numerous spaces nationally and internationally. She has exhibited in group exhibitions including Living in the Ruins of the Twentieth Century, UTS Gallery, Sydney; Sound Full: Sound in Contemporary Australian and New Zealand Art, City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand; WONDER, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea; and It is what it is, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor. Browne was the winner of the 2013 Fauvette Loureiro Memorial Artists’ Travel Scholarship Prize and in 2014. Browne is represented by Galerie pompom, Sydney.

Learn more about her work in this interview from the program “So Hot Right Now” on 2Ser FM (Sydney) regarding Browne’s installation Foyer at Galerie Pompom, including the piece Work/Play originally exhibited at BMCM+AC in conjunction with Materials, Sounds + Black Mountain College, curated by Caleb Kelly.

Jenn Grossman

Fantom, 2020. fans, contact mics, sine waves, air waves

Jenn Grossman is a sound/experiential media artist living and working as a sound designer/editor in NYC. Lingering somewhere between philosophical, psychological, and artistic approaches to exploring media, she is interested in ways that it heightens emotional, social, and sensory awareness, causes materials to transcend themselves and engages us in active modes of perception from the gallery to the public sphere. She’s held residencies at I-Park, Harvestworks, shown/performed in venues such as the New York Transit Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, Knockdown Center, art galleries and public parks, and presented at conferences such as the Global Composition in Dieberg, Re-Embodied Sound at Columbia University and Sound Signatures at Universiteit Van Amsterdam. Her recently formed curatorial platform WISE creates a space of support for women-identified artists working in experimental media.

Fantom uses simple sound sources: amplified fan drones (via contact mics) and sine tones to extract and sculpt tonal and textural layers created by ‘every day’ objects and physical phenomena. This rendition, part installation/part performance is a durational meditation on the physicality and precariousness of material reality and the ‘performer’s’ perspective of being indoors and looking outward, mediating on the external environment, and responding sonically.

Pia van Gelder

Knitting Experiments, 2020. Wire, butchers glove, electronics, prepared knitting needles, video card, video copy station.
Note: Video contains flashing images.

Pia van Gelder is a Canerra-based electronic artist and researcher. Her work involves designing and building electronic instruments that are presented in performance and interactive installation contexts. Her works investigate our relationships with technology and energy. Van Gelder was a co-director of Serial Space, Sydney and is a Curator/ Coordinator of Dorkbot, a monthly event for lovers of electricity. Van Gelder has built a substantial performance and exhibition history including the following solo exhibitions: Psychic Synth 2, McClelland Sculpture Park, 2019; Relaxation Circuit, West Space Melbourne, 2015; Psychic Synth, Performance Space, Sydney, 2014; Audio Visionaries, SCA Gallery, Sydney, 2012 and Synchresizer, Tin Sheds, Sydney, 2011. Her work was included in Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2016.

Knitting Experiments features excerpts from a performance in the studio at home that incorporates some experiments with knitting using conductive materials and square wave oscillators. The knit has been integrated into an ongoing performance work sometimes entitled PvG sans PCB (which stands for perforated circuit board). These performances are part performance and part demonstration of how to make simple oscillators. Here the act of knitting, the texture and pattern of knitted material are explored for their sonic qualities. There is also a video card that joins the performance unexpectedly, a happy addition.