What I See When I Look at Sound at PICA

In What I See When I Look at Sound at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, curator Leigh Robb has presented five works by artists whose practices collectively traverse the visual, sonic, and performative. With a title that nods to books by writers Raymond Carver and Haruki Murakami, this exhibition aims to probe the relationship between the seen and heard, exploiting the synesthetic interplay between the senses.


Kynan Tan. Multiplicity, 2012-2014; computer-generated video, archival footage, data visualizations, computer-generated sound, LCD and plasma screens, projectors, media players, speakers, headphones; installation view, What I See When I Look at Sound, PICA. Courtesy of the Artist.

To this end, Kynan Tan’s Multiplicity is a hypnotic suite of screen works in which the numeric is translated through visual and auditory filters. Mathematics, that abstraction both simple and complex, is rendered through animations, data visualizations, and computer-generated sound. The result is a graceful interplay of electronic sound and digital imagery. Despite its elegant formalism, the series allows slippages between abstract and representational, near and far, conjuring atmospheric, cinematic, biological, and geographic associations. Neuron-like clusters of lines are disrupted by television static; vast, sweeping sounds trace the form of mountains; and the frenetic lines of global communication are exposed.

Cat Hope’s installation The End of Abe Saba also makes use of the visceral effect produced as a body enters a space filled with low-frequency sound. A reverberating stack of bass guitars, amplifiers, and effects pedals builds a palpable atmosphere with subtle shifts in pitch and intensity. Vinyl wall transfers and screens present graphic notations of the amorphous, almost subterranean bass noise. Hope is interested in sound’s invasive quality—unlike an image, she states, it can’t be easily blocked out. As an accomplished composer, Hope’s interdisciplinary practice spans a range of modes from the classical to the digital. The End of Abe Saba operates as part of a larger project to extend received notions of music by exploring broader possibilities of sound.


Matthew Gingold. Filament Orkestra, 2014; 64 light bulbs, 64 light-dependent resistors (LDRs), 8 Ardunio Fio, 8 FM radios, 8 Lepai 2020 amplifiers, 16 Tang Band W5-1611SAF 5-in. full-range speakers, 4km AC/DC wiring; installation view, What I See When I Look at Sound, PICA. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Toni Wilkinson.

In Matthew Gingold’s Filament Orkestra, a bank of sixty-four domestic light bulbs is transformed into a rhythmically and visually complex installation through sophisticated programming and a worrying quantity of wiring. Referencing the music machines of 20th-century Australian composer Percy Grainger, the robotic orchestra works through its commands in increasingly complex configurations of clicks and flashes. Filament Orkestra resembles a deconstructed Broadway extravaganza, its forms recalled through disembodied choreography, staccato syncopation, and rhythmically flashing lights. In spite of its apparent simplicity and minimalist aesthetic, this is an elaborate and immersive piece, uncanny in its automatism, comical in its motion, and hypnotic in its rhythm.

Although this is a small exhibition, each of the selected works invites the audience into a fully realized world of sound.