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Serpent Songs/Windshadows - Sound Sculptures by Gerard Crewdson

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by Aridhi Anderson (subscribe)
Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
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A quirky cocktail of sound, art, ideas, and experience
Serpent Songs/Windshadows is a collection of acoustic sound sculptures by Gerard Crewdson. The works have been designed specifically for BLINDSIDE, the art gallery where they're currently on display.

Gerard Crewdson's conceptual sketches. Image from the BLINDSIDE website.
Gerard Crewdson's conceptual sketches. Image from the BLINDSIDE website.


If you're looking for something quirky, something different, something with soul, something that makes you think, something that makes you feel, something you can't quite describe, check out this free exhibition in Melbourne's CBD.

When you enter the gallery, you're met with an intriguing visual display. The sculptures come in an assortment of different shapes, sizes, visual styles and colours. Some stand tall, upright, others lie long across the floor, while others still are mounted on a wall. For some, you might intuitively guess what sort of sound they'd make. For others, you might find your curiosity piqued until a demonstration is offered.

A performance at the exhibition. Image from the BLINDSIDE website. Photo credit: Rachael Paintin.
A performance at the exhibition. Image from the BLINDSIDE website. Photo credit: Rachael Paintin.


Prominent works in this exhibition include the Serpent Horn, the Galileo Drums and the Rice Wheel, among others. The Serpent Horn is a visually striking, hollow, long instrument designed to be played with a mouthpiece, and is reminiscent of the didgeridoo. The Galileo Drums are vertical structures that are designed to create the sound of a falling object when inverted. The artist imagines them to be symbolic of a lifespan, beginning at birth and ending at death - except with them you can start over and live again. The Rice Wheel is a sizeable wall-mounted rotating work which also creates falling sounds, but nearer to the sound of falling rain than a single falling object.

All the sounds produced by the various sculptures and instruments in this exhibition have a distinct feel and effect. They come together to create mystical combinations of music, bringing messages to the city, telling stories, transporting you to a rich, unfamiliar world. The silence that precedes and follows the sounds is as powerful as the sounds themselves.

Gerard Crewdson's conceptual sketches. Image from the BLINDSIDE website.
Gerard Crewdson's conceptual sketches. Image from the BLINDSIDE website.


There are many ways to engage with this exhibition. You can read up about it on the BLINDSIDE website and gain insight into the artist's personal history. You can read about his inspiration for this work (he was inspired the gallery's acknowledgement that their site and the surrounding city stands upon stolen, never-ceded Wurundjeri land). You can walk around the space and examine the fascinating choice of materials with which the artist has created this collection of sculptures. You can watch the artist perform at designated times, and experience how his exhibition brings the space to life with hypnotic music, sounds, and the purposeful silences which draw attention to the hum and the life of the city.

Gerard Crewdson playing the cornet among some of the sculptures. Image credit: Aridhi Anderson.
Gerard Crewdson playing the cornet among some of the sculptures. Image credit: Aridhi Anderson.


Artist Gerard Crewdson compares being in the gallery to being inside an acoustic guitar because of the natural vibrations and reverberations in the space. You can sense his earnest connection to the space and to the surrounding city as he walks through the space interacting with the sculptures and playing his cornet. As he plays, he gravitates often towards the window that looks out at Flinders St Station and Federation Square, towards the Shrine of Remembrance. It is a beautiful view, and it captures the essence of city life in Melbourne.

Occasionally, the artist stops playing to make a comment. He tells you a little something new about the work: whether the philosophical ideas behind it, the ancestry and symbolism of his chosen instruments, the history of how he came upon the different parts that make up the works. For instance, the cornet he plays is a hand-held instrument which looks like a trumpet but has a different ancestry. It was historically used in connection with the mail rather than with the military, he explains, and he chose it for this exhibition to symbolize the bringing of messages. Among other fascinating inclusions is a mbira or a thumb piano from Zimbabwe, a small bell reminiscent of prayer bells used in the subcontinent, a bag made by Maori prisoners undergoing rehabilitation in New Zealand. Every little element of the work seems to have its own story and adds richly to the experience of the exhibition.

Gerard Crewdson's conceptual sketches. Image from the BLINDSIDE website.
Gerard Crewdson's conceptual sketches. Image from the BLINDSIDE website.
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Why? Get a fresh perspective on sound, art and Melbourne
When: 20 June - 7 July 2018
Phone: 03 9650 0093
Where: BLINDSIDE, Room 14, Level 7, The Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston St
Cost: Free
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