The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2013

All Issues
MAY 2013 Issue


On View
Murray Guy
March 5 – April 20, 2013
New York

There was an offbeat classicism to Sergei Tcherepnin’s recent exhibition at Murray Guy. Trained as a composer, the 32-year-old artist employs the traditional structure of the symphonic crescendo, gradually building sonorous tensions through his use of electronically amplified…sculpture and video. Ten objects in all occupied the gallery space: three rusted steel rain shields, positioned at various perpendicular angles to the floor in order to bounce and reflect sound; two round surveillance mirrors that rotated at specific intervals, creating an echo of sonic vibration throughout the space; three “eartone boxes,” individually wrapped in suede and linen; an amplified subway bench; and one freestanding video. These quizzical objects emitted just as questioning a score as they offered an opportunity for interactive looking.

Sergei Tcherepnin. Installation view with “Motor-Matter Bench,”2013, “Stereo Ear Tone Mirrors,” 2013 (detail) and “Pied Piper Box,” 2013. Courtesy of Murray Guy Gallery.

Despite his young age, Tcherepnin is quite accomplished in the field of site-specific sound art. Last year alone he participated in the 30th Bienal de São Paulo and was the subject of a major solo exhibition titled Pied Piper, Part I, at Audio Visual Arts. Additionally, Tcherepnin has performed at the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago (with Das Institut and United Brothers), and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, also with the aforementioned collaborators. Later this year his work will be included in the 55th Venice Biennale as well as the highly anticipated Soundings: A Contemporary Score at MoMA. At Murray Guy, this experience showed.

Tcherepnin’s installation operated on a 32-minute loop created specifically for Ear Tone Box. It began with low rumbling blips, which, depending on your position in the gallery, echoed a call of the curios, followed by a glittering array of potential menace. As the piece developed each object came to play an individual role, contributing its idiosyncratic “voice” to the overall composition. Central to this experience were Tcherepnin’s “eartone boxes,” hand-fabricated sculptures that, when experienced from the inside, emitted two tones designed to elicit a third tone—or “difference” tone—in the listener’s inner ear. (While trained in music, I had never encountered such an experience in an art gallery, and the effect was truly thrilling.) Placing my head inside a box and peering out through the silkscreened veils draped across the front of the objects, my perception shifted ever so slightly; the effect of this middle tone was not altogether unpleasant but was not exactly pleasurable either. Most disquieting was that I could not escape. In an era where everything has an off switch, I was held captive by the visualization of my own breath against the screens and the intrusion of pitch upon the inner workings of my anatomy. As my ears (and intellect) flitted back and forth from actual sound to created fiction, the floorboards of the gallery seemed to bend and warp in accordance.

“Pied Piper Box,” 2013. Courtesy of Murray Guy Gallery.

Making my way onto the subway bench (“Motor-Matter Bench,” 2013), this Balanchineian duet shifted again, the technological arrangement woomph and flickering in my audial periphery. Computer-generated sounds and vibrations layered, stacked, and repeated—mirroring my mounting anxiety (yes, this was the privatization of sound made public), which ebbed and flowed in step with the fluctuating decibel levels.

Particularly enigmatic was Tcherepnin’s lone video work in the show, “Pied Piper Playing Under the Aqueduct” (2013). Clad in fishnet stockings, mandarin-colored headpiece, and flower-printed mini-dress, the artist repeatedly traverses the area underneath the arches of one of Rio de Janeiro’s ancient aqueducts, at times simply walking and at others seemingly looking for something. His garments and the desolate, graffitied architecture behind him, along with the passive reactions of passersby, function as the only indicators of the work’s contemporaneous sense of place. Sound, it appears, might be the only thing to shake him from this reverie. Barefoot save for the shredded pantyhose he sports, Tcherepnin is like a jester holding court, playing our emotions with his digital flute—one we never actually see but are very aware is present.

453 W. 17th St. #35W // NY, NY


Kara L. Rooney

Kara Rooney is a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and critic working in performance, sculptures and new media installation. She is a Managing Art Editor for the Brooklyn Rail and faculty member at School of Visual Arts, where she teaches Art History and Aesthetics.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2013

All Issues