Contour 556


Alex Gawronski: Alarm, 2018

(Scaffolding, car alarms, wiring, car batteries)

Commonwealth Avenue Overpass, Canberra, ACT

Contour 556; A Biennale of Site-Specific Art curated by Neil Hobbs. Oct 5-28, 2018.

‘Alarm’ was a site-specific audio installation that utilised a series of reconditioned domestic car-alarms. The work was produced for ‘Contour 556’, an independently curated public art biennale staged across various venues around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra in October 2018. This particular work was hidden away under the busy Commonwealth Avenue overpass that leads traffic in a straight line directly towards Australia’s Parliament House. It audibly called attention to an otherwise peripheral urban zone notable primarily for its liminality. The brutalist architecture of the site lent it a paradoxical monumentality enhanced by its severe symmetry: two sets of concrete stairs leading to a raised ‘stage’.

The high-pitched sounds emanating from the work as the alarms phased in and out of synch, was both abstractly compositional – in a post-Futurist sense – and literally ‘alarming’. As the title suggested, ‘Alarm’ could also be read as a distress beacon, a call to stop and consider the habitually overlooked dimensions of urban space, to help break the conditioned ways we inhabit such space. The work aimed to encourage the viewer (and listener) to rethink their relationship to the city, particularly a capital city, in lieu of the pressures (of work and other life responsibilities) that typically fix our daily ‘use’ of it. ‘Alarm’ further alluded to a more pervasive contemporary sense of global unease whereby almost anything (especially inexplicably loud sound) can potentially trigger barely suppressed feelings of dread or paranoia.

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Written by alex gawronski

November 28, 2018 at 4:49 PM