...We listen to strong, aggressive music in a room that proliferates our image and carries us away by merely putting on the headphones. It transports us to another dimension, to an experience that utterly breaks with the gallery ambience surrounding other visitors. This singularizing process, that separates us from other individuals to whom we are nonetheless physically close, resembles the distance between members of a subculture and those surrounding them, created largely by the music with which they identify...
In bringing together offerings by Jo-Anne Balcaen and Dominique Pétrin this autumn, the CLARK centre once again creates a constructive and stimulating dialogue between the artists exhibiting in the large and small galleries. While the aesthetics of the installations Sound Ideas (2011) by Balcaen and Pompeii MMXII (2011) by Pétrin are opposed on nearly every level – notably the ways in which the visual reduction of the former comparatively amplifies the chromatic saturation of the second – both works draw from a common source: a fascination with the idea, the concept of music.
Three elements inhabit the large gallery: on the floor, the case from a generic rock CD created to sonically dress up films and television ads, as well as a chart accompanying it, suggesting a classification of its tracks by the particular sonic effect targeted; in the room, a hendecagonal screen consisting of evenly sized, unfinished wood panels, their inner surfaces covered with reflective Mylar. An opening allows one or two visitors to enter the small enclosure and read the titles inscribed on each face. These identify the pieces one may hear through the headphones available. From Renegade toTough it Out via Heavy Hitter – and the tracks are given precise descriptions one may read on the chart, such as “authoritative and imposing,” “determined and insistent” or “sturdy and bold” – it is hard to differentiate one from another on a single hearing. They are so close to the defining stereotype of what “rock” must be. Each of the pieces blends – differently – the genre’s typical ingredients, among them overblown electric guitar, powerful bass and an accelerated drum rhythm.
We listen to strong, aggressive music in a room that proliferates our image and carries us away by merely putting on the headphones. It transports us to another dimension, to an experience that utterly breaks with the gallery ambience surrounding other visitors. This singularizing process, that separates us from other individuals to whom we are nonetheless physically close, resembles the distance between members of a subculture and those surrounding them, created largely by the music with which they identify. Thrown back on oneself by this forced break with the immediate context, the participant in the installation can only become especially conscious of his image, his behaviour, his bodily presence. These are the only things tying him to other individuals moving around the room, otherwise so calm and silent. This obsession with images of the self nourishes several of the artist’s other projects, notably Screaming Girls (2005) and Long Shot (2007). If, in Screaming Girls, Balcaen made visible the sheer abandon of young girls in the 1960s, entranced before their favourite stars and unconscious of the fact that the were objects of both incarnate and mechanical gazes,Sound Ideas reckons with a contemporary hyper-mediated context, in which one can no longer ignore the gaze of others so constantly falling on us. From which may come such aesthetic control, the uncluttered aspect, nearly clinical, that seems to limit any possibility of expressive and emotional overflow, which might call to mind an adolescent before his or her mirror, imitating his favourite band and singing his head off. The work positions itself naturally into Balcaen’s practice, which approaches what surrounds popular music in a rational way, offering an analysis of its effects on the individual, of its psychology, its methods of construction, its myths and the excesses to which it gives rise, notably the relationship of fans to its object-relics and the image of the star.