Fondazione ICA Milano | OLYMPIA SCARRY. White Noise
Fondazione ICA Milano
Curated by Alberto Salvadori
Olympia Scarry’s works in dialogue with a video by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla and a sound composition by Stephen O’Malley
18th January – 6th March 2022
From 18th January until 6th March 2022 Fondazione ICA Milano presents the exhibition White Noise, solo show by Olympia Scarry installed on the ground floor of the building. The show creates a space where Scarry’s practice and works are in dialogue with a film by the artists’ duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla and with a sound composition by the Seattle based musician Stephen O’Malley.
For White Noise, the Swiss American artist Olympia Scarry (1983) produced a new corpus of sculptural works that capture traces of time and sound impressed in synthesized organic matter. The minerals crystallized in geological time, or deep time, are transformed within the transparent hints in onyx, while the line drawings carved in the stone disrupt the tempo. Moire like lines, which in mathematical terms is a large scale interference, and which in physics is a considered a sonar “beat”, when two exact forms are overlaid but not exactly identical, here are echoed in oil paint on paper as a cascading record of conversations. Soap is a process of purification, a process of attempted unattainable preservation. Stored fats continue to combust in the interior cavity, evolving with the environmental conditions, exposing the markings of times. Borosilicate glass, the material used for laboratory experiments and optics, lies on the floor bound in bundles like a fiber optic cable connecting one element of empty space to another. Light works its wave and particle metamorphosis as conductor of light, parallel lines meeting at the point only of infinity.
The artificial interventions within the natural elements create an alchemy of stillness which sound and time defy. White Noise, in other words, is sound transmitted at random, which can have equal intensity at different frequencies, giving it a constant power density as in white light, which even if it appears white, is defined as the complex mixture of all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Scarry’s work reverberates through materiality.
On this specific occasion, the sculptural works by Scarry are put in relation with Allora & Calzadilla’s and Stephen O’Malley’s artistic practices. Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, artists’ duo based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, present the video
Breaking Into Trunks, which takes the form of a meditation on the interior orders of the universe. Inspired by visits to the Gstaad-Saanenland, the film unveils the process of knocking down of a bicentenary tree that took place during the last autumn full moon of 2016, the moment when the sap-level was at its lowest, the wood the driest, and the acoustic properties the best. The music for the film is composed entirely with a violin, while the voiceover recounts parts of a short story attributed to the late 4th century BC Taoist philosopher, Zhuangzi, titled Breaking into Trunks which contemplates the nature of wisdom and its effects on the ordering of the world. From the hunt for the resonant ‘Stradivarious Violin’ trees to the search for the mysterious Higgs Boson particle in nearby Cern and the tally stick system used by local farmers, it traces a path of order and disorder, beauty and chaos as it might be staged within the humble confines of a local barn.
During the exhibition, Stephen O’Malley will present his composition entitled “Avaeken”, on this occasion performed by Belgian electric guitar ensemble ZWERM. The composition is named after the millennium-
plus-old oak on the island of Faro in Gotland, Sweden. This royal tree has survived and lived through unfathomable time and weather and serves as a reminder of the brevity of human existence in immense
time-space and inspiration of consciousness place and presence. In O’Malley’s interpretation, four guitarists perform standard electric guitars and sustain microtonal pitches made purer and as steady as possible without friction sound of freeboard, string or ebow, with precise pitch control. During the performance, each guitarist performs a separate voicing intonation through a dedicated amplifier arranged in the room to display the beating phenomena of the precise harmonics in the space of the room. Throughout the twenty minutes of the performance, forms of rhythm and structure move around the space, exciting the air and bodies present in a deeply present and physical way. The performance’s date will be shared as soon as possible; the event will take place in full compliance with the international anti-contagion norms.