“I have nothing to say and I am going to say it.”
If you put your ear close to the lone guitar in the stark white room at Mandragoras Art Space, a collective of young entrepreneurs experimenting with new approaches to performance art, you can hear these words. From farther back it sounds like the instrument, which sits on a long mirror hooked to an amplifier, is being strummed by some invisible hand.
Magically, to those unversed in the workings of sonic fields (like me), that phrase spoken by American avant garde composer and music theorist John Cage creates vibrations that move the guitar strings and create the sound.
“It is a process of translating, interpreting and sonifying John Cage’s voice,” artist Richard Garet said.
Garet’s artworks in the show “Extraneous to the Message” investigate “the background noise established by mass media culture of everyday life,” according to a writeup by Julian Navarro, who brought the exhibition to the art space.
Garet says the works address the background noise that we typically try to ignore every day, such as that from mass media, but also all the tidbits of sound that float around us daily.
“Inspired by information theory, where what defines noise is the understanding of anything that is intrusive to the communication process — all the noise that exists or that enters the channels of communication,” Garet said. “I particularly find these noises interesting and politically expressive as well. I find motivation in drawing attention to the noises that are a byproduct of contemporary life, but that most people usually ignore. That’s my material.
“Mass media culture also contributes to that phenomenon,” he said. “However, I do not try to make works to address mass media culture. My work is just observant of the present moment and present medias and technologies.”
In the main exhibition space, next to the room with the lone guitar, Garet hung rows of rope. They were affixed to the ceiling with a black, slightly curved disk.
The disk captured sound waves that were cast from a device installed on the right wall, which gently swayed the braided twine.
Last Saturday night Mandragoras’ guests held glasses of water or wine near the ropes and watched their liquid ripple.
On the window the artist installed several gizmos that played a sound and then passed it to the next device, creating a ripple of noise down the window — like a toy train going around a Christmas tree. The sounds would pass by and then a minute later would return after making stops at the other devices attached to the windows that line the gallery.
Garet performed a 45-minute piece, as he will on April 6, last Saturday night. He stood behind a table that looked part science project, part DJ stand. Garet delicately pushed a switch or slid a lever to increase and decrease the sound.
Two lightbulbs — one cast a red light and one a blue — would dim and shine, to create ambient noise that sounded vaguely like a storm or the music to a horror film.
“Lightbulbs were used in company of photosensitive sensors that capture the modulation of light and have the capacity to translate these voltage signals into sound,” Garet said. “I used them in the performance to shift the attention and to literally integrate electricity and basic light signal into sound.”
When: Saturdays March 30 at 2 p.m. (lecture) and April 6 at 8 p.m. performance
Where: 36-01 36 Ave., 3rd Floor, Long Island City
Tickets: free, (347) 527-2269