REVIEW: Rie Nakajima and Elliott Sharp at White Cube

Audience waiting for Rie Nakajima to 'animate the room', White Cube Gallery
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Rie Nakajima and Elliott Sharp
(White Cube, Bermondsey, 21 February 2015. Part of the Christian Marclay exhibition programme. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

The single Saturday afternoon performance by sound artist, Rie Nakajima, became two as Elliott Sharp was in town for the première of his Christian Marclay/London Sinfonietta commission the next day. Both artists explored the acoustic properties of glass, a major theme of Marclay's exhibition, in their own unique ways - Nakajima through her process-based performance and Sharp, shortly after, in an electric guitar improvisation set.

Nakajima's performance, said White Cube's Scott Martin in his introduction, 'will involve her animating the room'. This set the scene for a captivating sequence which involved Nakajima unravelling the coils of red wire which she had placed in the centre of the gallery, to each of which was attached a tiny vibration motor the size of an in-ear headphone that drew its electric power from a central source.

Walking towards the perimeter of the room, in different directions with each wire, Nakajima stretched them out, one at a time, and positioned their ends at floor level at points between the centre of the room and the shelf running around the room on which were sitting numerous pristine beer, wine and spirits glasses. She then selected individual glasses, placed them on the floor and brought them in to contact with the vibration motors so they would rattle against the glass. With some she taped the wire in position to ensure that the ensuing chiming and jangling tones remained continuous.

The cumulative effect was to build up a charmed, lightly smile-inducing landscape of layered, ringing sounds and serendipitous pulses precipitated by the star-shaped tentacular incursion of wires that gradually defined the room's topography. Passing relationships of ownership were created between clusters of audience members and the varied sonorities that the nearby glasses cast in to the space.

From a steady, low scale intervention, more complex overlapping beats emerged from within the jangling jungle mist and, finally, urgent alarm calls imposed themselves until, without warning, Nakajima literally pulled the plug on proceedings and instant silence crashed the space.

Elliott Sharp at White Cube, Feb 2015
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
A black-clad Elliott Sharp followed a different tack, seated by a table with a small array of glasses and other implements which he selected to apply, at times simultaneously with a glass in each hand, to the strings, fretboard and pickup areas of his strikingly minimalist, transparent bodied guitar. He drifted from slinky, slide guitar abstractions, using glasses, short metal rods and an ebow as the slides, to deeply down-home, sad, anguished and angry Chicago blues resonances. From revving up an electric bass beat Sharp flipped to a liquid limbo, a mercurial one-man band, with swings, sustains and hums all extracted from the glass/metal interface in his calmly irrepressible sonic quest.

Nakajima's and Sharp's contrasting approaches made fascinating listening and viewing, adding further richness to Marclay's music programme at White Cube.

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