Sounding Off at Frieze New York (Part II)


Welcome to the second half of our two-part investigation into Frieze Sounds, a component of the fair’s commissioned program developed by curator Cecilia Alemani. (Part I, published yesterday, can be accessed here.)

Perhaps the seemingly indifferent placement of the Frieze Sounds listening stations can be attributed to the works themselves, which ranged from bad to mediocre.

Liz Magic Laser’s “Nothing Special” consists of an imagined exchange between “an investigative reporter” and the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that touches on gender dynamics and “takes on the character of therapeutic ruminations,” according to the wall text. Likely conceived when Trump’s political rise seemed like an opportune subject for satire, the work is neither funny nor particularly interesting, the “Trump” voice actor’s Cartmanesque impersonation grating rather than entertaining. Despite the psychoanalytic posturing, this is art as puerile revenge fantasy.

GCC, a group once referred to by the editors of the catalogue for the New Museum’s 2014 exhibition “Here and Elsewhere” as “quick and cute and perfectly timed,” delivers more of their derivative blend of corporate aesthetics, this time mixing English-language verses from the Qur’an (edgy!) with “soundbites from antidepressant ads” and “airline marketing material.” The glossy result, “revitalizing spaciousness,” is an approximation of a first-class lounge’s soundscape, if a first class lounge had the acoustics of an empty hangar — to risk a description that makes the work sound more interesting than it really is. The collective should be lauded for articulating some of the stakes of their project in a 2015 contribution to Artforum, but this sound work delivers more of the same old glib corporate aesthetics dreck in a different medium, their hyperventilated claims that “this work aims to revitalize spaciousness and explore power, imperialism and allegiance through language” notwithstanding.

As for the third and final commission, Giorgio Andreotta Calò’s “IT,” the droning electronic instrumental track was a welcome respite from the didacticism (explicit or implicit) of the other two works. The effect of the abstract sounds was also literally amplified by the audio equipment in the BMW Lounge, where this track felt turned up at least 50% louder than the other two. With Calò’s beats pulsing, one could gaze out over the maddening crowds and feel something between relief and disquiet.

Mostafa Heddaya (@mheddaya)

(Photo: Mostafa Heddaya)