The art exhibited at Dia Art Foundation is often dictated by elaborate systems and overarching concepts. The pleasure in understanding them can be enthralling; however, it can also be alienating, cold and inscrutable. Camille Norment’s exhibition “Plexus,” in Dia Chelsea’s two-room 20,000-square-foot exhibition space, falls into the former category. The show consists of two auditory installations that teem with experiential and conceptual delight while subtly engaging with more socially minded ideas that sometimes feel overlooked at Dia. The untitled works are placed in separate rooms and offer different experiences, which connect through their primary use of acoustics as a medium.
In the first gallery, a sensuous brass sculpture resembling an elongated teardrop hovers above a 6-foot standing vessel also made of brass. From a distance, the form alone is visually enchanting due to the spatial phenomenon created by a candescent object suspended over a void. Up close, it’s apparent that the pendulum’s bottom is actually a speaker; four microphones also extend from the ceiling, and are pointing toward the speaker. Feedback generated by this closed audio loop mixes with static noise excerpted from radio broadcasts of social protests in the 1960s and ’70s. Our bodies affect the space: the microphones capture our movements, augmenting their feedback and blending it within the ambient noise. Norment’s sculpture thus becomes a contactless bell, creating a unique sonic encounter through the potent and malleable role that sound plays across time.
Norment’s second installation exerts sound onto our bodies, as opposed to shaping sound through an audience. Six massive branching sculptures overwhelm the room, with planks of wood extending toward the ceilings and onto the walls, in a manner reminiscent of rhizomes or lungs. As I sat against the base of one structure, speakers embedded into the wood reverberated throughout my body, projecting a 12-person chorus and intermittently humming low-pitched noises. The branches and traveling sound forced my gaze upward and I reflected on the architecture of the building, its history as an industrial space and its current life as a white-walled gallery. While the systems that dictate the acoustic sensations differ across Camille Norment’s artworks, they are powerfully united through the movement of sound as an agent for critical self-awareness—both of ourselves and our surrounding environment. —Bryan Martin
Camille Norment, Untitled, 2022. Installation view, Dia Chelsea, New York. © Camille Norment. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation