By Harriet Willis
Newcastle’s contemporary art museum boasts contrasting views of the geographical divide between Gateshead and Newcastle, plus free entry to the public. Because of this, BALTIC is almost always worth a visit, regardless of what exhibitions are on. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find Serena Korda’s exhibition inside this minimalistic gallery, which made for a simple, yet innovative art piece. Korda has completed a two-year residency at Newcastle University, ultimately leading up to the creation and unveiling of this art piece.
As soon as you step into the room, it is made clear by the humming music that Korda’s piece reconciles sound with visual art. As a fan of art that plays on the senses, I immediately felt the piece was striking despite knowing little about it. Located on the walls are concave shaped ‘portals’ that echo the sounds played from the speakers. Each portal has been made unique with a different design. The dishes themselves offer an aesthetically pleasing marbled design that would not look out of place in a modern home.
Without reading the description of the piece, the surrounding sounds would have remained enigmatic. However, the music echoing around the room was inspired by the atmospheric sounds of the universe that are only able to be heard using certain radio technology. Specifically, Korda has attempted to recreate sounds familiar to the local history of north east England, as she incorporates the sounds of enemy planes that could be heard during World War One through radio equipment.
Walking into this room allows you to suddenly become conscious of your surroundings. Only when I entered the exhibition was I able to hear everything that I hadn’t heard before, but what had always been there. On BALTIC’s website, it describes how Korda has produced a soundtrack that ‘touches on invisible forces, consciousness and what lies beyond planet Earth’. If only for a short time, this piece destroys the idea of being isolated and alone in the universe. It reinforces our universe as something that is living, existing and breathing.
In the middle of the room there is a Persian rug with a set of stools and a chair in the middle. This created the atmosphere of a living room, far away from the vibes of a museum. This cosy set up helps remind the viewer that these atmospheric sounds are always constant in quotidian life, even though we can’t always hear them.
All in all, the exhibition is definitely worth a look if you find yourself nearby. The almost ominous backdrop of the music creates a very different experience to an ordinary museum; arguably, Korda’s sensory piece is a needle in a haystack of silent galleries found elsewhere in the UK.
All images by Harriet Willis