Saturday, January 08, 2005

Bruce Nauman's aural collage Raw Materials is an amazing way to fill the vast space of the Turbine Hall. You can hear a sample of the recordings used on the exhibition website, but it can't really convey the experience of being there. Seeing myself as a very visually-orientated person, I was stunned by how quickly my mind blanked out the sights around me, focusing on the overlays of sounds.

There are two important aspects of the exhibition that the website cannot convey. The first is the 'found-sound' within the Turbine Hall - the noises generated by us exhibition-goers ... and, if I tell you that this is a great place to take young children, you can probably imagine how great and varied that sound is.

The second important sound that is not conveyed by the web exhibition is the white noise, called Mmmm on the floorplan and pumped out as a background noise across the entire space. It means that there is never a moment of true silence - as Nauman himself said in an interview for Tate Etc.:"There is always something. There will be a spot in-between where you’ll probably hear a little of this, a little of that, and then a little of everything. And there are the background sounds of the building and of the people in there talking. We’re also going to hang overhead diffusion speakers that will spread a kind of a white noise over the whole space to mask some of the echoes."

My favourite sound was the one on the top of the bridge, Think think think think, which I thought was really good on its own, but especially in combination with the other sounds. There was a moment when this track, combined with the distant-air-siren hum of Mmmm and the noise of the visitors to evoke a World War II feeling. I could imagine how the ARP wardens must have felt, standing on a bridge, listening to the siren, with the instruction inside their own minds to Think think think think. It's ironic that this sensation should be evoked inside the safe and sterile environment of a gallery in a way that it is not in the streets of London - even when we have to evacuate the tube for a security threat.