Between March 2 and April 13, Julian Navarro presented the exhibition “Richard Garet: Extraneous to the Message” at Mandragoras Art Space in Long Island City, NY. Garet is a multidisciplinary artist who started to work with sound twenty five years ago, though he's been making sound art more systematically since 1998.
Sound art or sonic art has become widespread as an art form since the 1990s, though its inception goes back to the early 20th century, and it is significant that the Museum of Modern Art in New York will be doing its first sonic art exhibition this summer, “ Soundings: a Contemporary Score” , where Garet will be participating. The title of the exhibition refers to the background noise rooted in mass media and ever present in our everyday life, as the artist’s aesthetic field of inquiry. Noise is considered the debris of our urban modern lives, the polluting sounds superfluous to our objective and purposeful lives and interfering with communication, music or ‘silence.’ In 1998, Jean- François Lyotard declared in a press interview in Caracas, Venezuela that postmodernity could be defined as the loss of silence. How can this loss of silence be defined? Surely it involves the visual, mental and sonic saturation of the metropolis and urban and suburban culture, spreading all over the world, even to the most remote places such as the Amazon Jungle in Brazil, where a radio or the internet may reach.
Nevertheless this is the material of sonic art; it is this background noise that Garet wants to bring to our attention as potentially constituting poetic and cognitive experiences. The show included five installations, orchestrated in such a way that they could be experienced both individually and collectively. Synchronous: the Resonance of his Voice, 2013, an installation composed of an electric guitar, a guitar amplifier, a sound exciter, an audio file and a mirror, emitted a continuous sound resulting from the vibration of the guitar strings ‘translating’ in an abstracted continuum John Cage’s voice stating ‘I have nothing to say and I’m saying it.’ This piece is particularly significant because it is at the core of what sound art may be and Garet’s work. Sound art is not music and vice versa, and if we define broadly sonic art as art focusing on the virtuality and materiality of sound, in this piece, Garet converts the meaningful phrase of Cage into sound, –Cage is undoubtedly one of the key precursors of sound art, at which core is the surrendering to the constant flux of sound, noise, beyond our control- into the relinquishing of a fixed legible meaning and its de- and re-materialization as a constantly changing harmonic sound. In the same way that we may say that the visual arts may ‘represent’ or conceptualize something, inversely, we may say that sound art de-materializes and creates new forms of cognition through sound. Meaning is thus converted into sound in constant flux; or background noise/sound into a continuous being itself, in a dialectical relationship with a signifier and the context. Intermedium, is a 4 channel sound installation, which makes us aware of the cacophony of noises coming from the street, through four small speakers attached to the windows of the space; while 30 Cycles of Flux (Series) # 2, a large installation on the ceiling where from sixteen speakers hanging with the cone facing down, were attached long white strings in constant and delicate vibration. This kinetic movement was the result of capturing the imperceptible waves of sound emitted by an oscillator. While Intermedium makes us aware through the supposedly generic background noise of daily life like in New York, of our specificity as urban citizens of the 21st century, 30 Cycles of Flux, brings out from the paradoxical abstractedness of ‘silence’, expansiveness, the open-endedness of being in flux, a sense of belonging to a virtual whole. Thus Richard Garet, weaves out of noise, specificity, sensuality, awareness, conceptualization and a sense of self in the present.