AV Festival: unfolding installations, incremental car crashes and unhurried soundscapes

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A small white car in a gallery, its front end against the wall, car bonnet beginning to buckle
Jonathan Schipper, Slow Motion Car Crash, 2012

I had 24 hours of frantic slowness at the terrific AV festival last weekend. This year, the theme of this excellent festival of art, technology, music and film was As Slow As Possible. As I spent much time with our own contribution, Agnes Meyer Brandis’ Moon Goose Analogue, at the Great North Museum (formerly Hancock), and only saw perhaps half of the visual and sound art works – leaving almost unsampled an enticing programme of film and music – I can hardly review it, but I will just note a few highlights from my own small sampling:

Torsten Lauschmann‘s delightful exhibition at the Laing Gallery, Newcastle: standing enchanted waiting for a piano to play by itself, slide projectors to come to clattering life, waiting for snow to fall …

John Gerrard’s large-scale projection Cuban School (Sancti Spiritu), a transfixing slow-moving portrait of an existing school sited in the countryside in Cuba. The work is a virtual representation of the building, its 1960s Soviet-inspired architecture incongruous against tropical trees and light. The scene unfolds in real-time, panning slowly around the school, recreating the light conditions of each day. The scene was empty of people, although I read that a caretaker occasionally appears to switch on the lights. I never saw them.

Image of a large school-type building in a landscape
John Gerrard, Cuban School (Sancti Spiritu) 2011

Yoshi Wada‘s wonderful sound installation in the dramatic architecture of the Discovery Museum’s Great Hall, alternating calm and thunder with foghorns, alarm bells, a ship’s ventilator, and the clang of metal. It felt like a raucous if tuneful way to go down with one’s ship.

My sneak preview of the gorgeous sound sculpture, Flow, on the River Tyne, created by Owl Project (Antony Hall, Steve Simons & Simon Blackmore) with Ed Carter. This floating, wooden waterwheel-powered organ and dynamic sculpture. Hall and Simons explained to me, combines traditional and new technologies to circulate and process water from the river, analyse it, and transform it into energy and sound. It opens later this month and I’ll write more on it nearer that time.

A modern wooden waterwheel and mill on the River Tyne
Owl Project & Ed Carter, Flow, 2012

Imperceptibly edging towards inevitable disaster, Jonathan Schipper’s small car in a shop, moving steadily at 7mm per hour towards its doom. At the opening, the bumper had made contact with the wall of the shop in which it is installed. Since then, its front end has started to crumple.

The rumbling sounds of Jem Finer’s slowed record player, Bob Levene’s leisurely boat trip between Finnish islands as the light fades, On Kawara’s reading of a million years at the Baltic, Benedict Drew’s hallucinogenic walk-through installation … just some of many wonderful artworks, too fleetingly viewed and experienced when I should have been going as slow as possible.

A seascape at sunset with islands
Bob Levene, Inertial Frame, 2009

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