Some Misunderstanding (on Mondegreens and Pareidolias), Castlefield Gallery, Manchester

Text by Lauren Velvick

Some Misunderstanding (on Mondegreens and Pareidolias) is curated by CG Associate Sevie Tsampalla, and examines the role of misapprehension in how we make sense of the world. The exhibition is part of Castlefield Gallery‘s Launch Pad series, whereby members of the CG Associates scheme are invited to use the gallery as a ‘test-bed’, in between the main programme, when it would otherwise be empty. A Mondegreen happens when words, commonly the lyrics of a song, are misheard, giving them a new and different meaning. Whereas, a Pareidolia, is when we perceive meaningless stimulus as something more significant. The works selected approach the theme in different ways, some more successfully than others, with their differences in approach thrown into relief by their juxtaposition.

On the smaller, cosier upper floor of Castlefield Gallery, Maya Erdelyi‘s animated film, Pareidolia (2012) plays alongside two framed works. Intricately assembled paper-cuts, prints and drawings are manipulated into a beautiful and tragic story, that we can never quite understand the details of. Whilst the scenes depicted in Erdelyi’s film are specific, the experience of constructing memories and personal narratives from a mixture of real events, misunderstandings and fabrications is universal. As such, this work is powerfully evocative of an innate, but confounded human desire to fully understand and come to terms with our histories.

Also on the upper floor of the gallery are Anton Bruhin’s hypnotic sound pieces, with framed, plain, monochromatic record sleeves as a visual focus, whilst a reading plays through headphones. Bruhin’s LP, rotomotor: ein motorisches Idiotikon (1978) invokes the panicked loss of meaning when a word is spoken or written too many times, with the artist reciting word after word in Swiss-German dialect, only differing from each other by one letter. Together, Erdelyi and Bruhin’s works act as a primer for the rest of exhibition, temporarily altering the viewer’s perception of history and language.

Some of the works selected by Tsampalla, such as those on the upper floor, along with Jenny Core‘s drawings and Ben Gwilliam‘s delicate tape installation, invite the viewer to misunderstand, becoming immersed in, and directly experience the theme. Jenny Core and Dave Evans‘ works on paper, and works of paper demonstrate the phenomena whereby creases and random shapes could be figurative, depending on the context. Evans’ sculptures refer to low-budget sci-fi scenery, whilst Core uses graphite powder and chance to compose a starting point for her drawings. Whereas Cory Arcangel‘s wry digital manipulations, Dina Danish‘s underwater performance of ‘I Will Survive’ and Denicolai and Provoost‘s E tutto oro (2008) expose and dismantle misunderstandings, by revealing or enacting how and why they happen, with jarring results.

The varying perspectives on, and approaches to the theme can feel difficult to reconcile, but on closer examination the works selected refer to each other in unexpected ways. Cory Arcangel’s Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” Compressed over and over as an mp3 666 times (2004) allude’s to the strangeness of storing music digitally; how a song can be manipulated into a objecthood and back. Arcangel’s piece is presented as a stack of CDs, so mundane as to seem a little sad on the gallery windowsill, then as a counterpoint, Ben Gwilliam’s Wäil (2005) untangles found audiotape, suspending it like a curtain from nails. Unlike Arcangel’s stacked discs, the tape is unlabelled, and there is no way of knowing what music is gathered there except through the whispering rustle, as it sways with every movement in the air.

Some Misunderstanding (on Mondegreens and Pareidolias) is on display at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester until 18 August 2013.

Lauren Velvick is an artist, curator and writer based in Manchester.

Published 12.08.2013 by Steve Pantazis in Reviews

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