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Primal experiences: Ignacio Uriarte

INTERVIEW. Working with such varied talents as Michael Winslow and Blixa Bargeld, sound artist Uriarte's works this time with a typewriter. New Blain Southern show Analog features him among seven others sound artists through Feb 1.

Image for Primal experiences: Ignacio Uriarte
Photo by Michal Andrysiak

New Blain Southern show Analog features eight artists at the forefront of the current wave of sound art, among them Berlin’s own Ignacio Uriarte.

After a strong presence at the Venice Biennale and a massive group show at the MoMA, sound art is on everyone’s mind right now. Carrying the torch of original pioneers like Tino Sehgal and Nam June Paik, the artists in Analog include Gilberto Zorio, Bruce Naumann and Carsten Nicolai, among others. Uriarte, better known for his office-life-based artwork, contributes a sound and visual work ‘drawn’ by a typewriter that acts as a nucleus for the entire show.

You’re better known for your drawings than sound art…

That’s true. I spend probably 70 percent of the time doing drawings, because they are quite time-intensive. I consider the typewriter pieces drawings, too. I really sort of stumbled into working with sound. I made a very ambitious piece with Michael Winslow from the Police Academy movies, recreating the sounds of typewriters of a period of about 100 years, which he recreated live in the studio. It turned out beautifully. This opened two doors: into the universe of the typewriter, and into working with sound. From then on, things just happened. I worked with Blixa Bargeld on a sound piece and then felt the need to work on a more domestic level, so I recorded three serial sound pieces with typewriters.

How does your work fit into the show?

The show is about sound and how it can be visualised. It somehow also has to do with this idea about ‘analogue’, referring to the physicality of something, which is also often present in my work. My piece evokes the presence of a typewriter, not just a sound. In the drawing you can see, for instance, the sound waves – it evokes what happens with the sound, going from left to right and up to down. It’s somehow like the leftover traces of somebody performing on a typewriter.

What are your thoughts on this new chapter of sound art?

In a way, it’s fashion, waves that come back every few decades or whatever. On the other hand, I think it has to do with an urge for experience. The world has become quite digital. In the art world, there seems to be an urge, a need for a physical experience. I think that sound kind of goes in that direction, because it’s the most primal experience. And there’s a lot of sound that is performed live, like Tino Sehgal. Having a person in front of you or hearing the voice of a person is a pretty direct experience. It’s quite real. It’s a human being doing something.

ANALOG Through Feb 1 | Blain Southern, Potsdamer Str. 77, Mitte, S+U-Bhf Potsdamer Platz, Tue-Sat 11-18

Originally published in issue #123, January 2014.