The use of acoustic space in Travis Paterson’s “Landlocked: mapless and without bearing”

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On the night of June the 9th, 1727, a Dutch ship named the Zeewijk crashed heavily into Half Moon Reef off the western coast of Australia. While attempts were being made to construct a new boat two young sailors were caught committing the “stupid sin”, the Dutch term for sodomy at the time. The two men were subsequently exiled on two separate outer coral islands and left to die. Travis Paterson’s installation “Landlocked: mapless and without bearing” entwines this historical narrative with his own story of growing up as a gay man in contemporary Australia.

What was immediately striking about the installation was Paterson’s awareness of acoustic space within the gallery. In neighbouring rooms the steady hum of air-conditioning units and the electrical buzz of fluorescent lighting were clearly audible. These created a distracting and draining effect. However the room Paterson chose to install Landlocked: mapless and without bearing was almost sacred in its removal from these external sounds. As people entered the room their voices naturally quietened – there was a dialogue of silence between the work and the viewers. This silence reinforced a sense of reverence towards the work.

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A recording of Paterson as he tears paper in the gallery space, the acoustic properties of the room being demonstrated here.
Paterson’s use of acoustic space showed an acute awareness of the way in which sound, or the lack thereof, influences the way we respond to our visual environment. Although we are aware of this in a broader urban context many modern galleries fail to consider this within their exhibition spaces. With the growth of multi-media installations many galleries are faced with the dilemma of how to contain the sounds projecting from these works. Quite often these sounds bleed into neighbouring exhibition spaces, compromising the integrity of unrelated works and consequently limiting the potential of the viewing experience.

dirge1The powerful use of silence in Landlocked: mapless and without bearing was easy to acknowledge after leaving the room to enter the rest of the building. An adjacent corridor was dominated by the sound of a fluorescent light and wind as it passed through a doorway. The silent spell of the previous room was all but broken.

To view more of Travis Paterson’s work please follow this link.

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