How does the guitar work within Sound Art? “Lava” by Luigi Archetti on #neuguitars #blog
More than a movement or an artistic genre, the term Sound art or sound art means that variety of expressions and artistic forms that have sound and listening at the center of their interest. It’s a complex artistic phenomenon, branched and without defined borders, whose extraordinary vitality lies in the continuous trespassing between the worlds of visual art and musical practice.
Used for the first time in 1983 on the occasion of the Sound/Art exhibition at the Sculpture Center in New York, S. A. is still a controversial term today. For the English theorist Christopher Cox it is «impossible to define univocally» (Introduction to “Audio culture. Readings in modern music”, 2004); for still others it is “ambiguous” (C. Kelly, Introduction to “Sound. Documents of contemporary art”, 2011) because it includes both works of art located in galleries and museums and contemporary musical practices: performances, sculptures and installations, public art, artist videos and films, but also all the performing forms of art and electronic music.
Not all that glitters is gold. Its increased visibility often gives rise to misunderstandings and manifestations of dubious workmanship in which the exchange between visual/plastic and sound appears didactic, illustrative and instrumental. The misunderstanding is that it’s enough to combine a sound with a visual presence to create a “trendy” installation, adding an exotic element within the visual arts, or a visual aspect in the musical composition, leading to often unpleasant forcing, with the danger of creative slips due to mutual ignorance between the parties. It is not enough to mention or synchronize the means and forms of sound and image with each other to fall within the scope of Sound Art.
Luigi Archetti’s latest double CD, “Lava” seems to move in very different directions from those indicated above, suggesting multiple interpretative approaches. Luigi Archetti, born in Italy (1955) but raised in Switzerland (since 1965), is an artist specialized in border music that borders on ambient, droning and microtonal. This latest work consists of 25 tracks, 25 audio fragments obtained from the manipulation of the sound of different guitars. I have always found the role of fragments very interesting. Like photographic splinters they show us a way to grasp a totality, a more complete and complex vision that remains hidden in the fragments themselves and in the spaces that surround and connect them. In this case it becomes necessary to talk about style using metaphors, using fragments as metaphors themselves. Archetti makes a very intelligent and subtle use of it, because listening to a fragment presupposes a wealth of knowledge and experience, not known to the author, which allow the listener to create his own vision, subtle subliminal winks that direct towards paths and directions that are difficult to predict. A decadent attitude in the sense that everything behind you allows you to proceed by allusions and comments, without having to be explicit.
In an equally decadent and sneaky way I too fell for it, I too have implicitly decided to play the game. It was enough for me to guess that perhaps those sounds could have been generated by a guitar and I continued to listen, to connect, to multiply. This is because the first separation of sound from music, operated by Sound Art, can lead someone to fall under the spell of the sound of a guitar string, leaving them completely satisfied. Others may feel the need to return that string to an instrument and place it in some sort of constellation that organizes sounds in space. If that string, if that chord, is suitably attractive, to a practiced mind it may suggest that the sound is married to that instrument and what this means in a broader social sense. It’s entirely possible that the absence of the guitar instrument, or more precisely the sound of the guitar, leads to fantasizing about the fact that sounds have a life of their own and if they lose each other when they leave. This usually leads to look for a sound that is not a sound, which in its lack of solidity implies all sounds; the universe of Borges where we all started. It all depends on its creator, its semantic ability and us listeners, our ability to get involved, because when you look at the sound, you may wonder if it’s sound or is it art, always returning exactly to the starting point.
Maybe Morton Feldman was right: “Now that things are so simple, there is so much to do.”