Caleb Kelly – Tangible/Intangible: The Sound of Sculpture


Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, ISBN-13: 978-1988543031, English, 56 pages, 2020, New Zealand

The realm of art and sound is a slippery one, with ‘sound art’ being a bit abused as a definition, but with plenty of experiments conducted across the visual and the aural domains. This a vital publication originating as a commissioned essay from Caleb Kelly, expanding on the Sensory Agents exhibition at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. It investigates “sculptural practices that explicitly employ sound as a medium”, and in doing so it also unmistakably declares the relatively limited field of investigation. Kelly investigates the nature of sculpture, since the ‘intangible’ has been admitted to the official art world. The author examines the work of historical media artists, such as Laurie Anderson, Len Lye, Max Neuhaus, Jean Tinguely and Takis, for example, and a few more recent ones, highlighting how they have all pushed sound to finally become a widely accepted material in art. Kelly mentions sound, energy and motion as the key factors to redefine sculpture. Each artwork is clearly explained and discussed for its relevance, being part of a specific trajectory, leading to the full legitimation of the aural as a sculptural component. The full context provided, and the system of cross-referential works, provides an excellent example of research that is explicitly attached to an exhibition.