Gabriella Mangano & Silvana Mangano
Of Objects or Sound

Of Objects or Sound
, 2014
Installation view
Click to enlarge

In the exhibition Of Objects or Sound, Silvana Mangano and Gabriella Mangano present new video works documenting object and sound-based performances, created during a residency in New York. Working in a new city, the artists took up walking as a project; an exercise in movement, vision and physical negotiation. Certain objects encountered on these reconnaissance journeys were carried back to the studio, establishing a collection that became a connection with the city. Finding themselves without a history in that place, the artists worked to find the essence of each object and endow meaning to these almost totemic things. Using the found objects as their materials, the artists produced two formally distinct bodies of work that converse across the gallery; projected on one wall is a series of four single-channel pieces; and opposite, a nine-channel work on monitors.


Standing Piece for Forms, Standing Piece for Sound, Walking Piece for Forms, and Imagining structures (all 2014) show the artists engaged in an improvised choreography for and with particular discarded materials. Recalling the event of carrying these sheets and rods through the city, the large objects structure the movement of the performers’ entire bodies, having material qualities of size, weight, and resistance that require continual negotiation for solo or duet action. The architectural space of the studio, which stands for any possible space, is activated as a stage for careful, if spontaneous, performance developed especially for the camera. Consciously stripped to a minimum of elements, the videos go to the core of what makes a performance.


The presence of the recording technology is even more explicitly built into Performance Compositions for Sculpture. Installed in near-darkness, and shot against a black background, these vignettes of action are very still, the objects and their sensible qualities being the focus of each performance. The decisive cuts of the video are constant reminders of the material of the digital medium, and a prompt for the acknowledgement of the passing of time and the re-play of memory. While all taken from the same performance, it is not clear whether the shots are edited down or simply repeated – paradoxically, the cut appears to delay progress. Again, these short, still videos go some way to deconstructing the basis of performance, literally showing the hand of the artist.


In both series of works, a bold approach to editing exaggerates the non-documentary mode of this documentation: while each of these works is based on sculptural forms and performance, the medium of video asserts itself as a key mode of production and conceptualisation. The durational, time-based nature of the medium is amplified by the sound of multiple metronome beats, falling in and out of sync. The hard but seemingly changing rhythm both propels and restrains the movements in the videos, channelling energy as it keeps unreliable time.


Having visited Russia on the occasion of their inclusion in the 2013 Moscow Biennale, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano make present here the legacies of Russian Constructivist art and design, with questions and experiments in composition, and studies of isolated movements taken from the real world. Similarly in play are references to Bauhaus theatre, especially its concerns with animating and invigorating formal relationships, finding new interrelations between body, time and space.