Storey Gallery

On entering the gallery I am confronted by pretty much nothing, except for a cage around the statue of Victoria and Albert at one end of the space. In this visual desert a small tear in the coving above seems important until I'm jolted by a loud thwack of a ball on the wall behind me. I flinch, but there is no ball, just a recording of a ball being hit with a racket; hard and repeatedly against the wall. It's like being in a haunted squash court. Simply put, we're hearing the memory of an event that took place in here. At times the noise is so convincing I feel I should duck and my stomach tenses as it moves towards me. It's like the reverse of that scene in 'Apocalypse Now' when Willard and the Chef go looking for mangoes in the jungle. There is silence there but it's oppressive and pregnant until a tiger appears. Sadly, there's no tiger here, but that feeling of oppression and threat is present.

As the phantom ball ricochets around the hidden multi-speaker set up, I am aware of there being other, more human sounds, existing below the loudness of the primary noises. These are voices saying “in”, “out” and reciting numbers, but only in nearly numerical order, like a flawed way of measuring. The artist is scoping out the space – testing it's very real boundaries – at the same time as recording and memorializing it, in the same way Centre Court is measured and scored with human movement and interaction. This space is normally host to quiet contemplation and this show blows all that away with it's racket (and ball).

DOODAH was specifically commissioned in order to draw attention to the bare fabric of the gallery as after this show the Storey Gallery is closing for a full scale refurbishment, though the gallery's activities will continue. Consequently the acoustics of the space will almost certainly change, so the memorialization inherent here seems appropriate. It also provides the first echo of past shows.

Unlike other time-based installations there's no pay-off or punchline, no single moment I feel I have to wait for to “get” the piece, but I like that. I don't feel like I need to stay until an artist-sanctioned “end”. A refreshing act of humility on the part of Von Weiler.

Outside the main gallery there is a counterpart piece to the sound installation ('DAH', to the other gallery's 'DOO'). It's a large white pillar covered in charcoal dust that was applied during what was described to me as a frenzied attack, every bit as intense as the sounds next door. What we're left with here is a negative of the sound piece. This is a silent record of an activity. For my money, the sound piece is where it's at and no counterweight is needed. If anything the water is muddied by something so arbitrary (why a pillar, especially one installed especially?), though I can see how it would appeal to a sense of balance.

'Doodah' is a word that indicates something not quite remembered correctly, like thingummy or oojit. It's ephemeral too, as if an idea can't quite be concretized properly. In these ways Von Weiler chose just the right name for the piece, as there's nothing much more ephemeral than sound. Even the picture used to illustrate this article/review is simply a picture of the empty gallery. It may be a stock photo, or maybe it was taken during the exhibition, or it's installation. You'll never know.

On the whole it's a visceral experience and one I urge you to try for yourself.

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