Three television sets point towards each other from the corners of a triangle, in ‘…a legend, it, it sounds like a legend…' (2007). The screens show primary colours whilst the text of viewers descriptions of the sounds they heard whilst watching the Northern Lights are flashed on a screen. This art show feels full of vivid colour but oddly non-figurative. The story of this exhibition, that finds meaning in the void left by natural phenomena, is told as each work spills into each other.
A white room with blank canvas pinned up at eye level lies silent. There is an eerie presence in the artificially lit studio until a pre-recorded voice is heard. The speaker describes an image they have seen with convincing naturalism thanks to the meticulous research of Rickards' interviewing techniques. With the voices playing in the room it feels like we are all stood as a group looking at a piece of art hung on the wall even though the canvas is empty.
A film of the residents of Lake Michigan describing a mirage over the Eastern Shores is entitled, ‘No, there was no red' (2009). Each description of the mirage is given so personally it is as if the witness is the only one there at the time; a perfect metaphor for how art is perceived in a gallery.
The large upper gallery has soft subtle washes of orange light flooding the space from one end and equally powerful green light from the opposite end. The macro detail of filling a whole space with filtered light means soon the eye forgets the subtle change and tinted light becomes the norm.
Walking the streets home I wonder what else appears briefly in the flicker of a lamplight or the glare of the sun off wet paving stones. The line between permanent and temporary images seems to be a fragile one. This show softly shifts perception and opens up the possibility that other images may be lurking in shadows.
There are several elements to this show. There are quite long pieces of text, a film and sound recordings all concerned with how tongue-tied we are when it comes to describing things.
I am not sure that the quality of ordinary thought and language is so poor on these matters that we should be challenged to up our game in this way. There will be workshops for children, and there will be a concert where a small ensemble will perform a piece of music imitating, I believe, the sound of a thunderclap which was recorded and slowed down in order to dissect it. We are asked what sound fog makes, and also what sound colours make – the moon is another thing – perhaps we have not been listening – perhaps we are listening wrong. These strange questions remind me of teachers who like to ask classes trick questions, or questions which they are sure no-one will have a ready answer for – you remember the ones... This exhibition seems to be trying to put us in that classroom.
I wonder – I didn't stay long enough to find out – if NASA has a super sensitive microphone which listens to the moon – perhaps there is a ‘reveal' which makes sense of all this. The film puts us viewers almost behind a glass observing people trying to say what the mirage they saw was like – they seem a bit befuddled – perhaps we should all do some work on our descriptive language in case we see a mirage one day? All I would say to the children who may attend the workshops here is that fog sounds like a dog, red sounds similar to a bed, and the moon, like the material it is made of (cheese) makes different sounds depending on how you chew it !