Doing justice to the Darling Foundry: Filling the void

Filling the void

Wave watching with Aubé

Two momentous exhibitions make the most of the Darling Foundry

What a perfect pairing.

The Darling Foundry is one of the city’s most difficult art venues to shape. Immense, cavernous even, its structure itself is so awing that the art within it always risks being overshadowed or seeing its spirit somehow diminished. This isn’t a deterrent – on the contrary, such a fantastic space should be juxtaposed with art. It’s just a matter of judicious curating.

Like this time. Until September 5, the Foundry’s space is divided in two, half going to Jean-Pierre Aubé’s massive installation Save the Waves, the other going to Juan Geuer’s three scientific pieces united in Conflicting Realities.

Aubé’s work isn’t particularly beautiful, but by contrast it is a majestic piece of site-specific interactivity.

Inhabiting the largest part of the gallery, it consists of a table with a couple of monitors and a whole lot of wiring at the front of the darkened hall, a huge rustic white-painted wood speaker system in the middle, and in the back half a towering, 20-foot-tall, three-pronged antenna.

For Aubé, who has been working with recorded very low frequency (VLF) emissions since the start of his VLF-Natural Radio project in 2000, Save the Waves moves in an interesting new direction. Contrary to the isolation intrinsic to his previous work (he wished to keep his recordings free from the interference of such things as power lines), this time he reverses the process and actually seeks out an electric drone. For the duration of the summer, the huge Hydro-Québec transformer next to the Darling Foundry is the subject of his study of sonority. Grabbed by the mega-antenna’s receptors and put through the 24-driver horn speaker system, the transformer’s 60 cycles per second are moulded into a captivating, humming soundscape that fills the surrounding space, hands down.

Its sister exhibition, in the small half of the Foundry, is like the sophisticated sibling of the dyad. Geuer is a scientist at heart, making art practically as an afterthought to the love he has for the rational world’s immaculate precision.

The three pieces here take primary matter that he, like Aubé, makes react by passing them through a man-made system, bending and dancing to his dictates. The first piece is the most magical in this way: In a small black room, WiS (Water in Suspense) combines a single beam of light and a single drop of water through a complex metal and glass instrument to make moving light shapes appear on the wall that have the mesmerizing power of a lava lamp. As we move through to the next pieces, the is more light and space around us that allows us to investigate more closely the mechanics of Geuer’s installations – Strange Attractors, the second work, does indeed reveal itself as particularly attractive thanks to its shimmering green light and the sheen of its aluminum structure. On paper, the work’s two large pendulums are said to reference the Apollonian/Dionysian divide.

But with this work – as with the third,Trap, which relays a sort of incarceration scenario involving the viewer thanks to a motion-detector laser and various metallic constructions, but which I believe was not acting quite as interactively as it should have been when I visited – one can be left to wonder what it is that we’re not getting. There is an intensity, if only communicated by the obsessive meticulousness of Geuer’s craftsmanship, that overwhelmed me with the sense that I should coming away with more, that I should be reading the secrets of life in these pieces. Was I not spiritually interacting with these works as effectively as my body was? What was leaving me cold? These questions filled their own share of the Foundry’s void.

Jean-Pierre Aubé: Save the Waves

Juan Geuer: Conflicting Realities

At the Darling Foundry until Sept. 5