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Train gang

C. Kellam Scott and Richard Garet at Axiom
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  September 2, 2008


My trip to Axiom Gallery was made possible by one of the MBTA’s natural-gas buses; it seemed determined to make up for its reduced emissions by issuing a surplus of evil squealing.

My experience at Axiom Gallery was made possible by a pair of sound artists and the curating skills of Julie Madden and Autumn Ahn. C. Kellam Scott and Richard Garet are a pair inspired by everyday noise, but, I’m happy to say, they’re far more inspiring.

After a blush-prompting glitch in his set-up on the gallery floor — a laptop, a mixer, and a beater Randall combo amp — Scott resumed blasting an assembly of 16 or so innocents with a barrage of errantly diced squealing trains, their brakes, their wonky alert tones, and their announcements. (A call for Stony Brook awash in violent, ravenous hissing.) Heads tilted, ears were lightly plugged, and shoulders tensed as he captured and recaptured the howling rails, which split, multiplied, swelled, and collapsed into chaos over 45 wincing minutes. If this had been an actual train ride, we’d still be in the cab back from Hell. Generous applause and an intermission followed, and cigarettes trembled in anticipation of what was to come.

Where Scott’s work drew its petulant brand of gravitas from the sonic detritus of trains, Garet’s more successful piece — a quadraphonic-speaker arrangement accompanying a single-channel black-and-white projection — recalled the clamor of the subway visually. The image — an Alaskan mountainscape shot by Garet from a helicopter — drifted jarringly past in a relentless hard strobe, whites and blacks blurring into amorphous forms on the retinal wall: bones, cracked skin, flesh, and stone, all at once. It was like rushing past something while gliding like a cloud. Meanwhile, delicate tones rang out from the four corners, slowly becoming less delicate, more intrusive, like burglars seizing upon distraction. If Scott had run us all over with his trains on purpose, Garet’s tones and tints set upon us like sweet, accidental deliverance.

  Topics: Live Reviews , axiom Gallery , Julie Madden
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