A repeated complaint from everyone at Frieze New York today was that, even inside the fair’s tent, on this sunny, 86-degree day, it was hot. And, while it was sweltering just about everywhere in the fair, you could almost be tricked into thinking there was air conditioning at Empty Gallery’s booth, where Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon was showing a sound installation that features speakers and other objects covered in the wooly-looking material used for acoustic absorption. (The Hong Kong gallery was invited to participate in the fair’s “Frame” section, which is devoted to individual presentations and was this year curated by Andrew Bonacina and Ruba Katrib, who shared the labor of organizing it with Laura McLean-Ferris.)
After entering through a sliced vinyl curtain, whirring noises—ones not unlike those that come out of air vents—could be heard when visitors got up close to various speakers, which jutted out from corners and hung from the ceiling. But moving around the installation revealed what a dense soundscape Kiyomi Gordon had constructed. A repeating chime-like tone could be heard emanating from one squarish speaker, while another four-piece one—it looked like the kind used at big concerts—suspended from above played whooshing sounds.
For Kiyomi Gordon, this is a work about how sound can construct environments—how various tones and noises, though seemingly unimportant to the flow of everyday life, shape our very movements. Kiyomi Gordon has stated in the past that she is interested in “how we are both controlling and controlled by sonic information,” and it was interesting to note the ways that the placement of one’s body determined what could and couldn’t be heard throughout the booth. (Notably absent are any sets of headphones.)
Although the industrial look of the curtain may have signaled an enclosed, cooler space, Empty Gallery’s booth was just as hot as the rest of the fair. I certainly didn’t cool off when I looked at one of the objects included here, a puffy jacket rendered out of soundproofing material that was hung as though it were part of a Uniqlo display. It was fuzzy and thick, and I thought it might be nice to don Kiyomi Gordon’s work at some point during the dead of winter.