Text by Zara Worth.
Na ge ka ke translates as, ‘to cast, to throw’. Like the simple actions alluded to by the exhibition’s title, the works in Akio Suzuki’s first UK solo exhibition are small but significant gestures, which initiate subtle associations and sensations.
Suzuki first performed as an artist in 1963, at Nagoya Station, with a work which involved throwing a bucket of rubbish down a flight of stairs. The idea had come to him that after throwing something randomly from a reasonable height, a sense of order and rhythm might emerge. This search for sound became an all-encompassing pursuit within Suzuki’s practice; ‘sound’ is even present in his silent works. Suzuki has made the act of listening itself a subject.
All of the works have a sense of rediscovery to them; they are as playful and curious, as they are serious and penetrating. Like an elaborate cup and string telephone, Suzuki’s echo instrument ANALAPOS (1970), is placed inside a large white wooden box. It’s mechanism disguised, our full focus falls on the simple joy of interacting with the echo-catching artwork. It listens to us as we sing or speak into it, or it enables us to listen out for sounds we are unable to pick up without help.
The exhibition’s connection to this years AV Festival theme: Extraction, is not quite as tangible as in other AV exhibition’s such as Stone at NCGA. However, these works go beyond the obvious, almost personifying the natural elements Suzuki has appropriated for his work. The whole show seems to provide an opportunity for communion with nature and our surroundings.
Although it is clear that he is an ‘active’ initiator of the work, he describes them as collaborations with nature. Often, despite his initial action, he is more interested in it’s less predictable effects, which he carefully listens out for. He refers to this secondary act of searching for resulting sound as ta do ri, ‘to trace and follow’. Embodying this sound search oto-date: Newcastle (2014) is a sound searcher’s treasure map, where ears mark the spot. These maps are available from Globe Gallery, and you may have seen Suzuki’s distinctive ear-lobe symbols whilst out and about town. Stood with your toes pointing to the top of the ears, Suzuki has marked out for us natural echo-points.
Suzuki is a sound shaman. To take time to stand and listen is a surprisingly meditative act, requiring an unexpected level of concentration. Although now silent in the gallery, hi zu mi (2014), still instantly mentally conjures the sounds made by the stones from Marsden Rock, jarring and reverberating against the steel plates, as they were laid into position upon the gallery floor. It is as though a ritual has taken place here. And to some extent it has, as Suzuki ‘performed’ with the piece, using it as an instrument. Now static on the gallery floor, it waits for its next opportunity to speak, and like all Suzuki’s works, it demands us to listen.
Image © Colin Davison