Focus: Gabriel Acevedo Velarde's "Cone Flow"
Posted by Andrea D. on March 5, 2010 - 4:12pm

The most fascinating aspect of Gabriel Acevedo Velarde's Cone Flow exhibit is not, in my opinion, the art pieces themselves. It's a strange thing to say, especially because the exhibition's location within the museum implies that the pieces are inherently objects of artistic merit. But in my opinion, Cone Flow is not an exhibit that focuses on the objects. Instead, it is an exhibition that focuses on space: how the objects interact with museum space, how cultural space is negotiated, how sound creates, affects, and transforms space.

For example, take the first piece in the exhibition, Runway Blanket (2010). Upon first glance, it appears to be a mound of sand, covered by a glaringly bright orange tarp. If you keep staring at it for long enough, it will continue to look like a mound of sand, covered by a bright orange tarp. you continue staring at the piece, (and as your eyes start tearing up from looking directly at the tarp), you'll begin to hear noises. Strange, unexplainable noises that sound like someone is dropping something, brushing against something, or causing some sort of disruption in the quietude of the museum that would be severely frowned upon by the gallery attendant. Soon, after you've furtively searched the gallery space for the culprit, it becomes clear that the noises are coming from the otherwise harmless-looking pile of sand.

At this point, a magical thing happens: the pile of sand suddenly becomes much more interesting. Why is it making noises? How is it making noises? Is it supposed to be making noises, or am I just hearing things? Half of the fun of the piece is watching others' reactions to it, which range from a sudden, alert jerk of the head to a tentatively-whispered, "Did you hear that? What was that?" Using sound, Acevedo Velarde's piece subverts the often-overbearing silence and stillness of your typical museum gallery and provokes us, the viewers, to react. To converse with one another. To actually pay attention to the noises that compose our surroundings.

The second piece in the exhibition, Landscape (2010) continues this theme of viewer-interaction. The orange tent is suspended in the air by a series of strings, which are then fed down the wall pulley-style. Visitors are encouraged to pull on the strings, which in turn alters the peaks and valleys of the tent's "landscape."

Acevedo Velarde's final piece, Music Cone Tents (2010) is also interactive, in that visitors get to climb into a tent made out of the same orange material as his previous works. The symbolism here is multi-faceted: orange tents are used to shelter homeless individuals in Acevedo Velarde's native Peru, and for this reason the tent represents the transitory nature of these individuals, never permanently belonging to a particular space. Inversely, the tent creates its own unique space...especially because visitors have to enter in order to experience the rest of the piece: movies depicting Acevedo Velarde's interviews with his parents and civilians about their tastes and biases in music.

The artist's idea that music, or sound of any kind, can create a cultural space with its own unique identity is a difficult concept to acknowledge at first. But, once you think about it, it makes a kind of sense: after all, don't you become part of a particular cultural space, as you share Acevedo Velarde's orange tent with other viewers? Don't the sounds, the interviews, that process of observing and interacting with art, bind you together through the realm of shared experience with whoever else is populating the tent, or even the entire gallery?

Doesn't the way that you experience Acevedo Velarde's entire exhibition all depend on the space and, ultimately, on you?