Athanasios Argianas: A Sequencer*
On Stellar Rays, 1 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002
2 November - 15 December 2013
From the Press Release
Athanasios Argianas’s work occupies a space between mediums: sculptures become scripts for performances, or arrangements for songwriting, or vice versa. Although his works are often based on translations - or transcriptions - of aural, visual, or textual layers, the systems he creates are open and intuitive, stemming from a genuine curiosity for experimentation rather than a predetermined, result-oriented idea. Accordingly, this exhibition is conceived as a play on indeterminacy, contingency, and the attempt to let the work be shaped by situations beyond the artist’s control.
Two sculptural video installations set the tone. One is A Sequencer (Yellow on Grey), and the other Branching Music (Under The Trees, Above You). The first is a rather percussive piece, albeit sparsely so; the second is a more melodic, humming piece - again sounding in intervals, yet allowing periods of silence. The two function in tandem, resembling an expanded idea of a musical composition that unfolds during the show and in the gallery.
A Sequencer (Yellow on Grey) - a back projection inlaid inside a gallery wall like a cabinet or a vitrine - is a film of a dozen live scallops, placed on custom pedestals, reminiscent of an abstracted landscape or a display set. The animals clack their shells closed at unexpected moments, sometimes falling to the ground with the sudden shock of movement. The scallops’ one muscle performs a singular movement - both opening and closing its shell - akin to a binary system of zeros and ones. The sounds they create in this unnatural situation form a slow and extended notion of rhythm, like a percussive score extended over long stretches of silence. The soundtrack of the film was then printed as a waveform, and each sound and interval of silence was then encoded to design a mobile presented alongside the video.
Consonants As Noise (foam consonants) are sculptures of copper-plated sea sponges, suspended from the gallery ceiling. Consonants are sonically determined by extreme spikes and crevices, and without the expressive use of vowels, they function like noise - too complex for the ear to discern frequency. The formless shapes and chaotic surfaces of sponges are a natural and physical analogy to this perception of noise, and in both instances, Argianas is interested in how the lack of discernible patterns impairs our cognitive ability to remember a visual or aural experience with exacting precision. Noise is chaotic to our ears in the way formlessness and abstraction is unrecognisable to photographic memory, and in both cases it’s difficult to process and nearly impossible to remember in detail.
N. (if someone makes a sound, and its waveform is identical to the profile of their nose then’) is a series of five photographs, each of two pieces of paper, one rumpled and the other flat. The image is distorted in such a way that an outline of nose - viewed in profile - is discerned, creating a short circle of references: the sound of the letter N, as a noise, and its sinuous form, prompting the obvious word play - noise and nose both being nasal and noisy words. The title references an anecdote by John Cage, imagining a profile as a waveform and projecting how it may sound.