Do you guys know about the iTunes visualiser? If you do, nod vigorously – we are on the same page. For those who don’t, I am about to change your life. Press Ctrl+T the next time you’re playing a song in iTunes, and VOILA! Colours, sunbursts, fireworks, rainbows galore! The first time I was (drunkenly) entranced by this spectacle, it struck me that the magically glowing circles were actually moving in time to the music. I don’t know why this was such a revelation, but it caused me to fall off my chair in shock. Or perhaps that had something to do with my inebriation, who knows.
Either way, this is the only frame of reference I really have for Monocline: White Cube. This interactive exhibition comprises part of Sound Full, a major display of sound in contemporary Australian and New Zealand art at the Public Art Gallery. Does “monocline” sound vaguely futuristic to you? Well, it did to me, and this impression was only confirmed when I stepped into the gallery space that housed the exhibition. The large, dimly-lit area is dominated by a huge projection displaying strange, interconnected cubic shapes. The viewer is invited to stand in a particular spot in front of the projection. When the artwork “recognises” their body, the shapes begin to move, intimating a 3D space within the work that the viewer can then navigate by moving their arms and torso.
The most interesting thing about interactive artworks for me is the technology behind them, and Monocline: White Cube was no exception. I spent a good 10 minutes walking around the space, trying to determine exactly how the artwork was so sensitive to the movements of my body (I suck at technology, so I still have no idea). But there is always that embarrassing aspect of interactive art that can dim my enthusiasm: you sometimes look like a fool trying to engage with the artwork, especially when it doesn’t respond to you. Think about the last time you stood in front of an automatic door and it didn’t open – yeah, that’s the same kind of awkward humiliation. Standing completely still with your arms frantically wind-milling about you is not the most composed I’ve ever felt in a roomful of strangers, but luckily the exhibition did verify my existence by moving.
I thought it was particularly noteworthy that the sound aspect of the exhibition was actually not very prominent. You wouldn’t consciously pick up on its significance or even its existence if you weren’t concentrating solely on it. The best description of the tonal quality I can think of is a persistent combination of hum and monotone jangle. While I noticed this sound immediately upon entering the exhibition, the time in which I was navigating the white cubes was so immersive that I literally forgot that aspect of the artwork. It was only after observing other viewers that I realized this sound was key to realistically conveying the movement within the world of the white cubes. Silence would have rendered the projection as mere film, but that softly piercing sound transformed its very essence, offering a fantastically absorbing physical interaction between the artwork and the viewer.
DETAILSDunedin Public Art Gallery
Monocline: White Cube by David Haines and Joyce Hinterding
7 July – 7 November