Camden Arts Centre presents Hollowed Water, an exhibition of new film, sculpture and musical works by Greek artist Athanasios Argianas.
Argianas’s practice emerges from an interest in esoteric technologies and the traces of modernism that are found in unexpected places. An artist and composer with a background in classical music, Argianas often works across disciplines, exploring how the procedures and protocols associated with one might be brought into play in another.
This first major show of his work in the United Kingdom draws on his existing research into film, music and ceramic sculpture; and expands on work begun during a residency at Camden Arts Centre in 2018-19, when Argianas developed new sound recordings and a series of semi-functional objects that operate as stages and support structures for music to be performed. The works in the exhibition develop from the artist’s interest in modernism that informed some of his earliest works.
The exhibition will comprise two parts: a sculptural and film installation in Gallery 3; and a new film commission, with a soundtrack composed by the artist, in the Reading Room. These major new commissions draw on musical forms and visual aesthetics to form connections between distant historical periods – from Baroque instruments to contrasting musical composition systems from the 1980s.
Argianas has created an acoustic environment in Gallery 3 that investigates the affective function of aural forms: noise waveforms, shifting tonalities, dissonances, glissandi notes; and structural models including rounds, quartets and melodic repetitions. A series of new sculptures – bronze casts of binaural microphones, which were designed in the late ‘70s to record sound with fidelity to the human ear – explore the material properties of brass, copper and bronze, each one deploying the metals in relation to forms of communication, transmission or reception of energy.
The artist has continued his research into obsolete or marginalised acoustic technologies by creating adaptations of the Ondes Martenot [Martenot’s Waves] resonator: a prototypical electronic synthesiser from the mid-20th century that tilts and bends sound, treating it as a tactile material. A new recording of a string quartet and a tone generator, made from the waveform of the artist’s cat’s purr, will play from a turntable activated by the audience, through Ondes Martenot Resonators and other bespoke, adaptions of instruments and speakers.
A group of low-lying, modular ceramic sculptures, which echo the curves of Art Nouveau and 1930s modernism, appear collapsed on the floor, in weighted contrast to subtle armatures and parallelograms suspended in the vaulted ceiling of the gallery. In response to the Victorian architecture of the gallery, the artist has traced the inner volume of the room with thin ribbons of brass, which appear as if softly draped in space and, on closer inspection, are etched with words describing absent objects.
Argianas’ new film commission – the titular Hollowed Water; a piece of music imagined in visual form – is installed in the Reading Room. Structurally, the musical composition of the work derives from a baroque fugue, shifting phase and tonality every few seconds in a rhythmic pattern – a method also used in 1980s minimalist music. The synthesised quality of the piece reflects the contrasting characteristics of a bismuth crystal – an image of which features in the film: its iridescent, metallic patina suggests a man-made origin when in fact the geometric square spirals are formed naturally. A singer, a drum, a harpsichord and a bridge on a canal also feature in the looping scenario of the film, which moves through syncopated shifts of scale, the sequence of images enacting the musical structure.
Argianas recent exhibitions include: Slow Painting, curated by Martin Herbert, Hayward Touring; Line, Lisson Gallery, London; The Promise Of Total Automation, Kunsthalle Wien Antidoron; Documenta 14 at Friedricianum, Kassel; readingmachinesmovingmachines (solo) at On Stellar Rays, New York; Art Of Sound, at Fondazione Prada, Ca Corner, Venice, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St Louis, MO. In 2012 his work was featured in The Imminence of Poetics – The 30th Biennale of Sao Paulo, Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, Brazil, and at PERFORMA 13 New York a year later. He has held solo exhibitions and performances at We All Turn This Way, The Serpentine Pavilion, Serpentine Gallery, London, The Length Of A Strand Of Your Hair, Of The Width Of Your Arms, Unfolded at EMST National Museum Of Contemporary Art, Athens, The Length Of Your Arms Unfolded, the Barbican Art Gallery, London. Argianas runs Daedalus Street with Rowena Hughes, a project facilitating the development of new artworks by invited artists in their studio in Athens.