Untitled (It’s About That Time crystal version): João Onofre at Rialto6
One segment is twenty seconds, thirteen make up this sculpture. A period of time is materialized in crystal, and it’s about that time. If it were not for João Onofre’s deep interest in the 60s and 70s conceptual art, combined with the “humour” typical of his work, and the title of the piece would be different. But it is really Untitled (It’s About That Time crystal version). But this is not just any time – none is -, it is particular, and this game does not end here.
The conceptual interest is constant in the artist’s approach over the years, but the appropriation of pop culture references not so much. In 1969 the album In A Silent Way by Miles Davis was released – of great importance for fusion jazz and musical experimentation, as Marc-Olivier Wahler refers in the catalogue text. It is there that we find Davis’ solos I and II, sharing the title with the piece. Divided into three frequencies (high, medium and low), that which was audible and spread out in time takes shape through its length.
On the day of my visit, I was waiting for a friend outside Rialto6. As irrelevant as this information may seem, it was this wait that marked the first contact with the work, visible from the window. Initially one does not “see” music in it, there is too much noise, almost paradoxically no silence, and sound and silence should coexist in music. We see a beautiful, almost ornamental piece, produced in collaboration with Vista Alegre / Atlantis.
My friend arrives, and it’s about time to enter the exhibition. We ring the bell – another sound -, the door is opened and we are guided to our destination. There is a score at the entrance to the room. It both makes clear the “time” of the piece, and also translates a sound into symbols and visual codes. Suddenly all sound, all noise propagated in the air, disappears, as if we had taken a step into a universe of emptiness. The room is soundproofed with insulation foam. I am reminded of Robert Fludd, when describing a non-universe, non-existence or pre-existence – as much as this much-lit space is not anywhere near a black square or the “night of times”. Here sounds, previously visually represented, become matter, where time has delimited the form but not our experience. Not anymore. We relate to sound not by the time of propagation, but by the duration of our stay within the space.
The cars passing by a moment ago, that were making so much noise, are now merely background. I say something to my friend, anything would do, just to make sure that sound and time still exist.
The exhibition Untitled (It’s About That Time crystal version) by João Onofre is at Rialto6 in Lisbon until July 21.