Late afternoon on a hot day in Leeds and The Tetley is quiet, with people outside making the most of the summer spell while it lasts. Then a tinkling noise, almost bell-like, tumbles through the atrium followed by another sharper crackle, then a softer rattle. Sixteen small speakers are attached to the high wall and connected by wires to a computer, as if the building itself is hooked up to some kind of cardiac monitor. These noises, as it turns out, are not the internal organs of The Tetley but a series of audio clips of empty gun shell casings falling to the floor. Taken from blockbuster films and experiments in the artist’s own home, they form an audio library ‘Full Metal Jackets’, created by Anne Walsh and Chris Kubick. The strange orchestra of conflict and theatrical effect opens The Tetley’s exhibition ‘No Quiet Place’ and introduces the exhibition’s narrative of environmental and incidental noise - the soundscapes that surround us as we navigate contemporary life.
There is a broad range of work on show, although its impact can be hit and miss. Paul Elliman’s ‘Beyond Police Call’ (2013-ongoing) is a floor based installation of panicked flashing lights and overlaid noise. Using contact and alert calls, Elliman then slows down the sirens and sound to the speed of a human heartbeat which has the odd effect of speeding up the viewer’s own. Elsewhere and more meditatively, the work of Hanne Lippard occupies several of the smaller peripheral galleries with ‘Lostisms‘ (2011) in which the artist repeats the word ‘lost’ before diverging into other meanings and associations of the word through constant repetition. ‘The Ssecret to SsucceSs iSs in the Ss-eSs’ (2014) again uses the voice as the medium, as Lippard performs an artwork/lecture exploring idea of business rhetoric, double-speak and the efficiency of language. Both works are visually demanding through their lack of visual presence, displayed as simple speakers positioned in the space.
There are, unfortunately, some more forgettable works in this exhibition, but a more positive highlight comes by way of three works from Lawrence Abu Hamden. ‘The All Hearing’ (2014), is a particularly strong work, and overlays the chaotic noise of Cairo with a religious sermon on the subject of sound pollution in the city and its spiritual effects on the body. Images of city life, shops with hi-fi displays, flashing neon LED lights and pop music blaring are shown with the highly charged words of the Sheikh, who himself is adding to the ‘pollution’ by trying to drown out all but his own message.
‘No Quiet Place’ is the first exhibition under the new directorship of Bryony Bond and, curated by Zoe Sawyer, introduces the organisation’s new direction and programme. Sound works well within The Tetley’s numerous wood panelled spaces, many of which were the offices of previous brewery directors and staff. The intimate environments often allow for a more private experience with the work, very different from the exposure and omnipresent eyes of larger, open Tate-like spaces. And so I find myself half lying on the floor of the small dark hot room slightly hypnotised by the work of Akeelah Bertram, an artist interested in sound and light environments soon to graduate from the Royal College of Art. A small projected white bar of light moves slowly towards a vase of water where it stops, jumps and then radiates out in a circle towards another vase mounted higher up on a small plinth. The whole installation is bathed in a sort of subdued, industrial dubstep, looped soundtrack which is created using the manipulated and stretched sounds of a projector. The DIY aesthetic of the work (Vase, 2012) has a refreshingly carefree and experimental feel, and Bertram is a happy discovery to make amongst the selection of artists in this sensory show.