AMBIENT, CURATED BY TIM GRIFFIN: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
Works by: Dike Blair, Liz Deschenes, Olafur Eliasson, Susan Goldman, Mary Heilmann, Nathan Hylden, Sherrie Levine, Tristan Perich, Seth Price, Nick Relph, Haim Steinbach, and Alex Waterman
An origin story for ambient music is found in the liner notes for Brian Eno's 1975 Discreet Music, in which he tells the anecdote of happening on the idea when a recent accident left him bedridden. After a friend placed a recording of 18th-century harp music on the composer's turntable before departing the room, he realized the stereo amplifier was at such a low level that the music (which was also playing only through a single channel) was nearly inaudible, blending with the "color of the light" and "sound of the rain," and residing at or just beneath the threshold of perception.
The exhibition ambient puts forward the genre speculatively, as a potential prism through which to reconsider artistic composition some forty years later. Or better, as a lens through which to consider anew art's reception, particularly in light of the uncertain position of viewing subjects as artistic production steeped in an industrial era--with steady relationships drawn between audience member and any object he or she encounters and beholds, often steeped in intervention or critique--gives way more fully to that of a postindustrial paradigm. If ambient music emerged decades ago as an artistic mode revolving around dislocations and relaxations of authorship--and quasi-reversals of figure and landscape, foreground and background--perhaps this proposition may usefully be expanded today, in a manner pertaining not only to objects of art but contemporary ways of looking (and their tenuousness between artistic periods).