You might come out of the water every time singing, Kaffe Matthews

It’s hard to know how to describe Kaffe Matthews’ You might come out of the water every time singing. It’s not really music as most people would recognise it. It’s not art in any traditional sense. At a push you might decide to label it an installation. But whatever you want to call it, You might come out of the water every time singing is spine-tinglingly magical.

I came across it at the exhibition Galápagos, which is currently being held at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery. All of the works in the show have been created during a series of month-long artists’ residencies on this fascinating group of islands, with each artist using the funded position to produce works of art which present various different views of the place. Given the impression that most of us have of the Galápagos as weird, wild and wonderful, I was expecting plenty of magic. In fact, many of the art works on show reveal a different side to the islands, focusing on the little-known human residents rather than the well documented flora and fauna.

Under the water off the Galápagos Islands, an image taken by Kaffe Matthews

If Kaffe Matthew’s contribution sounds more predictable, dealing as it does with the animal inhabitants of the islands, then the end result is far from it. You might come out of the water every time singing is one of those experiences that appears rather complicated on paper, with the Fruitmarket’s press release describing it as a work ‘made using Galápagos hammerhead shark routes to play digital oscillators variably mixed with processings and underwater recordings in the gallery’. The description may be complex, what you will find if you visit the exhibition is much more simple.

Kaffe Matthews, You might come out of the water every time singing

While this photograph gives you an idea of the layout of the small space which houses You might come out of the water every time singing, it doesn’t give an indication of the magical aspects of the work. On entering the room, an invigilator informed me that the best way to appreciate the work was to remove my shoes and lie down on the large platform in the centre of the room. Finding myself alone in the space, surrounded by the odd, otherworldly computer-generated sounds which were emanating from various loudspeakers, it took me a while to build up the courage to climb up onto the strange wooden structure. It was only when I did that I noticed the subtle vibrations which were pulsing through it. Lying there in this shadowy room, with the uncanny noises and gentle vibrations moving through my body, I was transported from a dark gallery on a dreary, drizzly afternoon in Edinburgh to somewhere altogether more magical – the murky azure depths of the ocean.

A Hammerhead shark in an image taken by Kaffe Matthews

I won’t pretend to understand the complicated explanations which the artist gives for how the sounds she utilises in You might come out of the water every time singing were created using the data charting the movement of the sharks around the Galápagos islands. But in the end, understanding it is not necessary to enjoying this visceral, strange and intriguing experience. You might come out of the water every time singing is something rare; a spellbinding work of art that can stimulate your mind and touch your spirit. Matthews herself describes it as ‘architectural music to feel through your body as well as your ears’. As someone constantly searching for magic, I was left slightly baffled, but more than a little impressed.

Galápagos is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until 13 January 2013.

http://www.fruitmarket.co.uk

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