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With an ear to the wall

Felicity Clark: Bree van Reyk, Wall Of Sound

Wall of Sound, Bree van Reyk Wall of Sound, Bree van Reyk
photo Amanda James
A friend confirms Wall of Sound doesn’t go for an hour as listed on the schedule, only five minutes, but that it’s one-on-one so I need to get my name on ‘the list.’ Staff have the list and it’s somewhere around the back, in a corridor, near the toilets. Off I toddle, past the kinbaku/shibari (erotic arty rope-tying installation) by Garth Knight and into the recesses of Carriageworks. I pass the bathrooms and hit a dead end, but hear a gong rumbling and, beyond a sign I can’t read because it is so dark, I see van Reyk from behind giving a private performance for someone (well just their shadowed legs) seated on the opposite side of her huge hanging gong. It looks personal and saturated with soft and loud sounds. Was this where ‘the list’ keeper would emerge? I waited, fumbled, then retreated.

Moments later I was back around the front, mystified by the symbolism of the rocks and female body suspended in Knight’s pagan, Celtic, tree-design—his stated homage to the collective consciousness—and waiting for my few minutes on the shadowy side of the gong. Staff suggested I leave my bag and phone emphatically off in the long dark corridor that led to van Reyk’s shiny edifice. I ditched the handbag and didn’t think of it again until the trek back to the disciplinarians (both the bondage display and collectors-of-worldly-possessions).

There was a stool and Chinese wind gong and van Reyk now in shadow. I sat with my face only centimetres from her bronze structure. I had seen her hands resting delicately on her lap so I did the same. Her mallets had huge white woollen heads and the sight of them made sense of the sounds I’d followed behind the toilet block. Her quiet precision, her patience in delivering the same experience time and again for each of us—encapsulated in the poise of her resting mallets—made me self-conscious about my shoes. That was all she knew of me and they were scuffed and old. I wondered if that’s how she’d decipher the right mood for our interaction: were my last-season, holey beige boots the score? She lifted her mallets and I flicked my brain to silent mode.

It started soft—like a singing bowl’s rim brushed without perceptible sound for a few rounds—and built. Visually stunning, the gong gyrated while flapping forwards and back, yielding the sensation of being pushed off-kilter on a swing. Bronze looked gold in that light and, cast in concentric circles like tree rings, introduced another layer of naturalness to playground reminiscing.

By reducing variables in performance, van Reyk’s simplicity ripened interest. It was immersive and intimate. In defiance of the good usher’s tip to ear-block if needed, I leaned in close to the swaying gong as things heated up—I wanted that ‘felt sound’ promised by the brochure, like the kind I heard in Ryoji Ikeda’s Superposition that dares you to go still a decibel higher without flinching. But it was just right. Her gong, more than a divider and a conduit, was a living sculpture we fed—Bree van Reyk with her actions and me by eager attention.

Performance Space, Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art, Wall of Sound, artist Bree van Reyk, Carriageworks, Sydney 23-29 Oct

RealTime issue #130 Dec-Jan 2016 pg. 18

© Felicity Clark; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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