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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Diana Al-Hadid’s Silent Portal (NYC)

Not all sound art makes sound. Not all art about sound is sound art — a cubist take on a guitar, for example, may not quite constitute a formal comment on music. But Diana Al-Hadid‘s “Portal to a Black Hole,” a massive freestanding sculpture that stood at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Manhattan until August 17, was formidable all the more for its foreboding silence.

Though called a portal, the piece more closely resembled its opposite: a gate constructed of organ pipes, massive and firm, within which were keys of some fantastic instrument, arrayed like a spiral staircase. Whether it leads up or down is up to the viewer. The structure brought to mind salt encrustations, fantasy films, barnacle accretions — all in all, a Boschian worldview. She’s pursued similar themes in pieces such as “A Measure of Ariadne’s Love” and “Spun of the Limits of My Lonely Waltz.”

The Al-Hadid was part of an exhibit titled “Agitation and Repose,” curated by Sabine Russ and Gregory Volk. I was fortunate enough to visit the week before it closed. Other works included a wall of exquisitely detailed mechanisms by Claire Watkins and a topsy-turvy architectural faux-folly by Via Lewandowsky that involved two prefab homes grafted into one and served as an antiseptic contrast to Al-Hadid’s construction.

Though her portal stood silent, silence was not the rule; sound bled in from several video pieces, including a nearby room of six screens by Roman Signer in which the central player was a toy helicopter, its whir cycling like robot bugs.

More information on the gallery at tanyabonakdargallery.com and on Diana Al-Hadid at al-hadid.wsdia.com , vcu.edu and priskajuschkafineart.com. By the way, that’s a Jon McCafferty abstract landscape painting in the background on the left of the image below; his topography-derived work finds a common ground between impressionist and technologist.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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