Sound Sculptures

Speaker

Artist Guy Parker is used to controversy. Some might say he thrives on it. Others, less kind, might say that he employs it as a substitute for talent, and no doubt his latest venture will serve to reinforce that view. Starting next week at the Tate Modern is his new collection, entitled simply Sound Sculptures. And what are visitors likely to see? Nothing, just a big empty room. We'll let Parker himself explain.

Parker:

For a long time I have been very interested in abstract art. The more abstract the better. Without form, without structure, the artwork becomes a malleable entity on which the art lover can project their own thoughts and feelings.

UBO:

Yes. And it also means that you don't have to be very good at painting.

Parker:

And yet, even the most abstract art is still tied to the visual. I wanted to explore a way of creating art that dispensed with a visual medium. Thus, we can begin to craft something more instinctive, more emotive. I wanted to gift my talent to the world in a way that was less materialistic, less...

UBO:

Expensive?

Parker:

Less restrictive. Consider marble, for example. For thousands of years, sculptors have used marble to create works that express their innermost feelings. We can create sculptures that depict love, fear, awe and the majesty of existence.

UBO:

I bet you can't.

Parker:

And yet, we can never get away from the essential marble-ness of the medium, do you see? Our lofty ideals are always going to be rooted in something solid and immobile, dragged back down to earth by something as mundane and ordinary as rock. But if I create a statue that doesn't use a physical medium, a statue that is a pure, uncorrupted concept of a statue, you can see at once how that would be infinitely superior?

UBO:

Ordinarily, no - but in your case we would be prepared to accept it as an improvement.

Parker:

The medium I have chosen to work in is sound. The palate that an artist has to play with is so rich, so broad. Tone, volume, so many sound "flavours". I prefer to work with sound in its pure state.

UBO:

Of course you do.

Divider

Parker:

Dirty great booms, untainted with jingly tinkles. Dry, rasping screeches, pockmarked with whoops and crashes. Using these simple, elemental sounds, I build up a picture that reaches out and really connects with people.

UBO:

Sounds hideous.

Parker:

Of course, the real fascination for me is that sound is not only insubstantial, it is also ephemeral. One bang and it's gone. The listener is left with a feeling of loss. The artwork is no more, never to be heard again. At this stage in my career, it is so exciting to be exploring a whole new frontier in artistic expression. Textures with timpani; symbolism with cymbals. I want to drown the world in sound.

UBO:

And clearly it helps that you can do this shit with your eyes closed. Not all of your work has been about "connecting with people" though, has it? For instance, Cacophony for a Dachshund was a six-hour looped installation that could only be heard by dogs.

Parker:

And some children, yes. My intention here was that through manipulating man's best friend, I manipulate the perceptions of man himself.

UBO:

Didn't work though, did it? All that happened was that the Walker Art Gallery, which staged the exhibition, was inundated by stray animals. Took them two weeks to scrub the main hall clean, I'm told.

Parker:

Indeed. It was an occasion where the unintended consequences of a piece become a part of the artwork itself.

UBO:

And then there was Coughing in an Amphitheatre by Royal Appointment. The programme described this as being a piece that "prompts visitors to reflect on their own decisions and choices". In particular, it prompted them to reflect on the wisdom of parting with hard cash for a ticket to the exhibition, with the result that it was a failure.

Parker:

I think "failure" is far too emotive a word to use in this context. The piece was an embryonic exploration of technique, and as such its value lay in informing my later work.

Divider

UBO:

Which brings us to your current exhibition in the Tate. This consists of a number of "installations". I suppose we're obliged to listen to you tell us about it?

Parker:

I think these pieces represent the pinnacle of my work. For example, I have crafted an installation that commemorates the bombing of Hiroshima, using the sound of running water interspersed with breaking plates.

UBO:

Why?

Parker:

Contrasting with this is Sid's Café. This consists of the sound of chips frying in custard. It's a fun, light-hearted piece, that provides a welcome respite from some of the more sombre and haunting soundscapes.

UBO:

This is all a bit... well... shit, isn't it? I mean, each of these "installations" is just a bare room with various noises piped in through a couple of tiny speakers.

Parker:

Not all of them, no.

UBO:

No, sorry - there's the room in which you personally run up behind people, shout "twang" and then run off again. Do you not worry that visitors might feel short-changed?

Parker:

Certainly not. If I ever thought that, I wouldn't be in this business. My work is highly regarded, you know. I might remind you that NASA chose some of my pieces to represent the human race: two whoops and a jingle have been loaded onto the New Horizons spacecraft, which is speeding out into deep space as we speak.

UBO:

And if aliens ever find it, it will no doubt annihilate any chance we have of being taken seriously. Anyway, I suppose we'd better ask what new and exciting noises you're planning to come up with in future?

Parker:

Oh, I'm done with sound now.

UBO:

Hurrah.

Parker:

I'm now really into working with smells. I'm planning to create a big stink in Harrogate in a few weeks' time.

UBO:

Thank you very much for warning us. Mr Parker, it has been no pleasure talking to you, as ever. Now go away.

Gallery

SOUND SCULPTURES AT THE TATE MODERN

Art lovers will doubtless be ecstatic to learn that Guy Parker's Sound Sculptures is running at the Tate Modern until the end of the month. The exhibition is not suitable for anyone with synaesthesia and visitors are firmly reminded that they are NOT permitted to bang their own tambourines.

 

Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2022
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