Household Gods, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris Marais
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
12th January - 16th February 2019
Household Gods, an exhibition of new sound installation and sculptural works, reflects Oliver Beer's current exploration of the relationship between sound and form, and the innate musicality of the physical world. The “Household Gods” of the title are physical objects, placed on plinths in a whitened room and idolized to the point where they can sing. In the main space of the gallery, they are given voice and raised to the status of household divinities. Beer uses microphones to amplify the ambient sound ricocheting within the internal spaces of the objects, creating gentle acoustic feedback loops, that allow us to hear the innate sound of each object. These notes are determined by volume and form of empty space, and have remained unchanged since the day each piece was created.
Reflecting the omnipresent tradition of animism and pan-cultural reverence to objects, Beer acoustically invests his unique collection with a spirit. Encouraging aural interaction with each object’s histories, the installation gives rise to a complex narrative of cultural assimilation, appropriation and access.
Chosen by the artist for their specific musical resonances, their harmonies represent invisible but unmistakable relationships between the objects. An Arita Amsterdams Bont urinal sings its inherent note, humorously referencing Duchamp's Fountain, 1917. Imported white from Japan and stylised by its Dutch owner to match the tastes associated with the burgeoning empire, it speaks to colonial politics and the articulation of power in aesthetic form. This is brought into musical harmony with a remnant of a chimney purportedly salvaged from the Palace of Westminster following the destructive fire of 1834, inside which the hand marks of the child labourers who made it are still visible. A tiny pot in the shape of the Egyptian divinity Bes, from 4th-1st century BC, adds its high descant of a high B♭.
Like his sound installations, Beer’s new black ‘two-dimensional sculpture’ confronts perceptions of space, sound and materiality. Intensely personal and symbolic items from Beer’s life become drawings of themselves and are ossified in infinite empty space. The white pictorial plane of Beer’s earlier two-dimensional sculptures intimated a perfect modernist flatness; for the first time the deep black background of these new works implies an endless depth. Expanding his repertoire to include vessels and other humble objects from his daily life, new facets of the physical world become Beer’s colour, line and texture. These objects have outlived their cultural context; the diverse, predominantly domestic materials are given iconographic status. Tuning pegs from Beer’s own deconstructed guitar interact with laughing gas canisters collected from outside his studio and fragments from his first metronome. Vessels, which once articulated musical notes, shatter and spread into constellation forms, investing items from the immediate material world with sublime value. His grandmother’s enamelled jug, which once resonated at a perfect low B♭is silenced into a visualisation of its aural abilities.
Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Photo: Charles Duprat.