Between Sonic and Silence

Light bulbs, electric wire, sinks, tea, sponges, gamelan, bicycle bells, stereo, books, photograph, suitcase, tap, radio, hearing aids, guitars, keyboard, record player·

In James Beckett’s studio I have seen rows of wooden shelves high up along the walls, in varying sizes and heights, with remnants of a brown coloured liquid staining the walls below; a wet patch on the floor generated by a kitchen sink hinged on the wall which occasionally tips over; parts of a machine dispersed against a wall with rubber tubes forming a connections between them; a stereo set held together and supported by a pile of unevenly stacked books; the enigmatic image of a young woman looking.

A performance, early last summer took place at a bell tower at an intersection in the centre of the city, amidst traffic; the reliable ringing of the towerbells cued by the traffic lights, accompanied by random white noise and fed back from the tower into the streets. Instead of ringing, the sound came and went buzzing at unexpected intervals.

The ingredients of his work seem in one part familiar, nearly traceable, but their skin has been undone, peeled off. For me the experience is of looking through a magnifying glass. That part, of which I am not so aware, is separated. The stains become witnesses to absence, the liquid on the floor a reminiscence of that which was once part of the contaminated house; the anatomically dissected engine produces a quiet noise in my head, replacing the ones around me. Insightful, destabilising and aware James Beckett produces an ongoing x-ray/analysis of events of whose influence we seem unaware. His work evokes realisations of absurdity and anxiety, but cannot be deciphered. He exposes the influence of the invisible and makes it part of perception and experience. It is the poetics of noise and silence.

Ansuya Blom