Critics’ Picks

Sonic Structure (portable instrument), 2005.

London

Elisabeth Penker

HTTP Gallery
71 Ashfield Road
May 10–June 15

For the past few years, Austrian artist Elisabeth Penker has been exploring the spatial dynamics that occur in the relation between objects and sound. In her solo show at this not-for-profit space consecrated to “technologically termed praxis,” she investigates rhythm and musicality by rearranging phonetic units in a process inspired by First Nation languages. With the multichannel sound installation Die Bildhauerin (The Sculptress), 2005, the artist breaks the grammatical structure of the title words into units, or “morphemes,” which become the basis of a minimal composition that resonates in and shapes the surrounding space. Backed by pre-recorded vocals and the echoing sound of two stonemasons chiselling into a wall, Penker’s performance on the show’s opening night took place on Sonic Structure (portable instrument), 2005, a geometric construction vaguely resembling a keyboard, made of wood and covered with industrial flooring. Any sounds made on this structure are amplified by means of a number of microphones set at different heights that allow any performer to produce music with wooden blocks and sandpaper. Having examined Luigi Russolo’s “Futurist Manifesto” of 1912 and, in particular, his experiments with noise, Penker successfully rephrases the old avant-garde formula through an orchestra that, although organized with instruments made of industrial materials, is able to involve those forces embedded within the most sophisticated sonic structure of all—linguistics.