Snap Crackle and Pop - An installation by Tony Kemplen, Bloc Space,
Sound art is currently central to the agenda in
Sheffield. Normally conservative gallery spaces as well as the more
inventive are currently displaying works involving sound.
As part of an increasingly innovative program, Bloc
Space in Sheffield are showing Snap Crackle and Pop, an
audiovisual installation by Tony Kemplen.
Tony Kemplen is no stranger to multiple ways of
working. His past work has included various installations, remodelled
objects, manipulated toys, text and video to mention but a few. This
time he has utilised the most irresistible of materials: bubble wrap.
Upon entering the space the viewer is instantly
made aware of the delicate and subtle nature of the material itself.
The bubble wrap is suspended from a metal grid in the ceiling and
draped in veils down to the ground from each side of the above grid.
The mesh curtained grid shimmers in the light and changes subtly
during the changing daylight or under the evening strip lights.
Passing one curtain of bubble wrap and then another
viewers slowly begin to fade into the bubble wrap ether and enter
another undefined space. As you lose sense of your surroundings the
soundscapes switch you from visual to audio mode and then to
audiovisual. The visual device of the bubble wrap successfully aids
the viewes change of perception. When immersed in the space you can
begin to engage with your own minds visual environment stimulated by
At regular intervals you can find the source of the
menagerie of sound. Speakers housed in metallic dishes reflect an
unfamiliar and distorted image of the viewer. This echoes perfectly the
transformation of the original source material for the sound
recordings into unusual remodelled soundscapes.
The sounds themselves emanate from eight speakers
from four separate stereo sources. Each channel is set on shuffle for
random playback. The phases of each track are significantly different
creating a wide variety of sounds. One of the most arresting phases
sounds like an artificial jungle. The manipulated bubble wrap has
become the sound of birds, rain and insects in a metallic amazon.
Reminiscent of David Tudor's Rainforest, this is not the first time
Kemplen has entered the jungle with his work. 2003's Dawn Chorus‚
was a sound installation transforming concrete sounds into birdsong
installed in the glasshouse of the winter gardens in the centre of
Another section slowly creaks along like the
floorboards of an empty dishevelled house or the ghostly deck of the
Marie Celeste. This creakiness brings to mind elements of some of the
finest surrealist soundscapes by Steven Stapleton's Nurse With
While submerged in the environment a further phase
sinks into an aquatic abyss. This phase joyfully oscillates between
the sound of blowing bubbles and an active lava swamp. The passage
could be straight out of the Radiophonic Workshop. Indeed as you are
listening you can begin to wonder and marvel at all the activities
carried out to coax and tease each sound from the source material.
The press release states the use of bubble wrap as
a low tech aid to stress relief, but any compulsive poppers will be
disappointed as viewers are not allowed to burst the bubbles. This
may cause anxiety to those who find the lure of bubble wrap
irresistible. Be warned!
However there is much to savour in this exhibition.
A seemingly simple material has been woven and manipulated in such an
intriguing and playful way that you can't help but leave and head for
the nearest stationers to buy some bubble wrap. Do try this at home.
Review by Neil
Neil is a sound artist based in Sheffield