A Sound Not Meant To Be Heard brings together new works in an exhibition by Cardiff-based artist Anthony Shapland. This timely show presents expanded moving image work - combining film, photography, sound, objects and text - that reveals the gaps between what is seen and said, heard and understood. The exhibition presents connected pieces, with subtle autobiographical references to the area he grew up, to previous works, relationships and conversations past and present. At the same time the work looks outwards, he invites us to re-examine how we perceive our own realities, that of others and the world around us: “ Whereas sound travels and the speed of light is a measure, silence rests and darkness waits to be illuminated, we break a silence, or pierce the darkness – suggesting that they are solid.”
The title, A Sound Not Meant To Be Heard, is a direct reference to Foley sound effects in film, a process where sounds are created independently from the moving image. Foley is often so well integrated into a film that it is unnoticed by the audience, without it a film can feel unnaturally quiet or uncomfortable. The disconnection between the sound that is generated and the object causing it is often comical or disproportionate. The usually hidden practice of Foley is shown in a number of Shaplands’ works, the most apparent is a series of prints on the walls where still lives are made up of sound effect props.
Shapland both highlights and inverts some of the Foley processes too – a long strip of Welsh wool carpet muffles our footsteps in the gallery. This carpet is part of the piece from which he takes his title A Sound Not Meant To Be Heard. At one end of this walkway is a film in three parts, a large flatscreen, a smaller one and an autocue.
The first screen, Broadcast, is filmed in the Rhymney Valley where the artist grew up, moving up through the valley to the sheep-grazed highest hill above. The film has one actor and we are never quite sure who he is – dressed in urban clothes he wanders the landscape. At the same time, a second screen shows Foley artists using props and a mixing desk to generate a soundtrack for the actor. This recording provides all of the sound except for his voice which remains silent, as the Foley artists don’t fill in that gap. With these screens is an autocue, which can be read as the voiceover. The script takes three different standpoints, combining first person, I, with second person, You, and third person, he. The set of films reflect upon what we can ever understand of another person, of the uncertainty and differences between the outside world we see and the internal world of the bodies that we inhabit.
In the second gallery is a multi-screen film work A Sharp Intake of Breath where a singer uses the soundwaves of her voice to break a wine glass. Like the carpeted strip of the previous work we can experience the physical impact of sound on an object. With ear protectors on, at the intake of the singer’s breath the audio is cut. We don’t hear her voice or any other sounds, but onscreen we can see the impact of the soundwave on the glass itself.
Shapland has a fascination with the act of viewing and reviewing moving-image, and an awareness of how fiction is created through the editing of documentary footage. He suspects that the world is constructed in the same way as a film set, constantly evolving and always temporary. This work uses illusion on many levels, but they are all believable ones.
Supported by the Arts Council of Wales