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The Comedy of Errors

Art Review: Sounds Like Her at New Art Exchange

8 November 17 words: Rachel Willcocks

Seven women, from a variety of different backgrounds, have brought their work together to create Sounds Like Her the New Art Exchange. They’re using their voices, language, noise, textures, music, sonic structures and non-sonic materialisations of sound all to grab your attention and make you think about things from new perspectives...

Image: Madeleine Mbida

Christine Eyene is an art historian and the curator of the exhibition. Her practice includes an interest in contemporary African Art, gender narrative and sound art. She has developed the exhibition inspired by her research on African rhythmic patterns, in particular, when she looked at her own Cameroonian heritage and her fascination in Bikutsi.

Bikutsi is a traditionally female musical genre from the region of Cameroon. The term means “beat the earth” or “let's beat the earth” and the name indicates a dance that is stomping the feet on the ground. Christine was also inspired by an interaction with varied sound-art platforms supporting the work of female practitioners.

When you enter the gallery you’ll see the piece, Devotional Series by Sonia Boyce. Premiering at the NAE, this is the new phase of her work. The piece is ongoing and ever-changing, all about the impact of black females in the music biz. Making its mark in Notts, it now represents two of our very own artists, Valerie Robinson and Harleighblu. They feature alongside 200 black British females in the music industry, whose names are printed up and down the walls, with pencil-shaped patterns that look like a fingerprint surrounding each name.

A Detail of the Devotional Wallpaper (ongoing since 2008) by Sonia Boyce

The work of deaf artist Christine Sun Kim mixes sounds and paint together. Her interpretation of sound is just one of the pieces from the exhibition which is specifically moving and engaging. The live video performance, Documentation of What Can a Body do? shows Christine cleverly manoeuvring different materials to sounds in order to create paintings. Within the video she refers to sound as a ghost.

Upstairs in the exhibition, the piece, Bia Kud Si by Elsa M’bala offers you a chance to get your musical skills flowing and play some rhythms on traditional Cameroon instruments. Through video, the Evolution of Bikutsi videos and sounds is also displayed.

Madeleine Mbida’s paintings opposite bring further Cameroon arty goodness. She has created a visually attractive piece with bright colours and strong shapes interpreting the Bikutsi music and dance movements.

A favourite piece for me was Linda O’Keeffe’s, Hybrid Soundscapes, which explores the impact of renewable technologies on the sonic environments of urban and rural spaces. The eerie sounds paired with artwork on the four surrounding walls makes for a powerful experience and highlights the effects of technology on our natural world.

Hybrid Soundscape (Spain) by Linda O'Keeffe

Other work includes, Ain Bailey’s multichannel sound installation, The Pitch Sisters, created from the idea that there is a preferred to pitch for a women’s voice. It questions what men find attractive in women and is an intense and mesmerising experience, stepping into a room with a circular layout of speakers playing the voices of 46 women.

Also, there is work from Magda Stawarska-Beavan, including her piece Mother Tongue (II, III, IV), a touching documentation of the development of her child’s relationship with the English and Polish language. Her other pieces showcased are the screen-printed, coded and phonetic text Transliteration I, II, III, and a spilt-screen video, Who/Wer, focussing on male and female narratives, exploring a city’s soundscape.

Sounds Like Her showcases some amazing and interactive work with depth and meaning from a selection of different women all from diverse backgrounds. It’s a refreshing take on sound-art and the collection certainly got my ears perking up to hear things afresh.

Sounds Like Her is running at New Art Exchange until Wednesday 3 January

New Art Exchange website

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