Critics’ Picks

View of “Bubble Metropolis,” 2019.

Copenhagen

“Bubble Metropolis”

Vermilion Sands
Tagensvej 85, kld.
February 2–March 16, 2019

The gallery is bathed in dust-blue light and the tremor of Calder Harben’s sound installation Bodies of Water, 2017–, which is audible only through the excision of everything else. Entering “Bubble Metropolis,” you’re given not just earplugs, then, but also a second layer of over-ear protection. Five recordings, each from a different location, document the auditive consequences of industry and traffic on marine environments. From a highway bridge by Umeå in the north of Sweden, vibrations shoot through the concrete pillars into the river below, unleashing a series of gut-wrenchingly deep explosions. Listening inflicts a certain pain, as the soundscapes become indistinguishable from your own heartbeat and the thudding of the hearing protection against your temples. If the murky color of the manatee—of gray smog on a clear sky and the light in this exhibition—is the color of impending environmental apocalypse, this is its sound: a slow, sickening rumble.

Accompanying Harben’s work in the blue room is Amitai Romm’s An Obstinate Craving For Sleep, 2018. Here, a century-old cartoon that illustrated Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams depicts a little boy relieving his bladder, contributing to an ever-greater pool of urine in which first a canoe, then a gondola, and finally an ocean liner appear. Embroidered on water-soluble fabric, Romm’s work abstractly links the turmoil of the sea to that of our inner worlds. Videos by the Otolith Group, Allan Sekula, and Noël Burch, screened off-site at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, further flesh out this connection, making “Bubble Metropolis” a sophisticated and moving comment on what it means to listen to the oceans, and what happens when we don’t.