Liam O’Callaghan is at TBG&S and is well worth a look. Though oddly enough the artist is using the opposite end of the sense spectrum and moving away from his light explorations into the world of sound art. That is not to say that the visual is lacking. In fact the arrangement of record players throughout the space adds a distinct sculptural element to the work; the multiplicity of several record players suggesting a minimalist grid. Seriality and repetition objectifies each player and yet they are movable objects each with a definite purpose. And so this is a performance sculpture. Or so it would seem.
The physical elements of the work, the stacking of the players, the wires and amps, all speak to the music about to be played. The viewer is expecting a crescendo and as each player sparks into action it comes in the form of a cacophony of stalled and jumping records. The noise however is not pleasurable and one suddenly questions whether this was ever the point? And yet if the players are simply objects then why try to play them at all? The point is that they are objects, yet we know them to have a purpose; we are entering the work with preconceived expectations.
The process at play here reminded me of ‘scratching’ or ‘turntabilism’ a DJ technique prevalent in the club-scene of the 1970s. Christian Marclay was the first to utilise this method in the arts and since the 1980s Marclay has performed an array of sound collages with dozens of records at a time – rarely in the gallery space might I add, but in the clubs. Marclay also used film loops as audio-visual rhythm tracks and for anyone who has seen his 2011 Venice Biennale entry ‘The Clock’ one can see just how adept he has become at this. I think the difference here in O’Callaghan’s work is that the music never plays, lyrics are never heard; they are permanently stalled. Process is very visible in O’Callaghan’s work and yet it does not necessarily inform the musical output. MTV gave the scratching of records a gesture – the movement of hand back and forth became a reference point to Hip-Hop. The gesture here is the player that cannot be played. For me this work raises questions in respect to the application of the ready-made and the difficulties this proposes to sculpture. To what extent does the object need to fulfill its intended role? Can we ever really objectify the object?