Vicky Browne – Cosmic Noise
Vicky Browne’s Cosmic Noise harks back to a simpler time when the belief in a cosmic eternity that included humans was still viable.
Winter Exhibition Suite 2018
The installation suggests an astronomical explosion, the big bang, that leads us to the celestial notion that life exists throughout the universe, held within space dust, meteoroids and far-flung planets.
Noise, on a cosmic scale, is vastly different to the small sounds heard within Browne’s installations. We come to know Browne’s materials through their sound, her objects producing unexpected sounding outcomes and in doing so, the known and expected sound of the object becomes unknown and unexpected. On entering the gallery, we hear before we can see Cosmic Noise, and what we hear is an orchestration of small barely audible noises. We can listen to the sonic whole, or we can enter the installation and focus our attention on specific and often minute sounds; each element with its own vibrating micro-ecology.
Cosmic vibrations became known to mainstream culture through the Beach Boys’ song ‘Good Vibrations’ (1966), a hit inspired by the flower power movement of Southern California. Browne’s installation is filled with these good vibrations, yet within its nostalgia is the persistent knowledge that our planet is in crisis and that the matter that surrounds us is at the heart of this crisis. ‘Cosmic noise’ might then allude to bad vibrations, the type Brian Wilson was told could set off dogs barking and a material future without humans to hear it.
DR CALEB KELLY
In 1965 scientists Penzias and Wilson were annoyed by a low, steady, mysterious noise that persisted in their receiver. A few months later they realised they were listening to cosmic microwave background radiation emanating from the big bang.
What resulted (among other things) were recordings of a sound that was 13.7 billion years old. Around the same time Brian Wilson (note the same last name as one of the scientists) from the Beach Boys purchased a set of wind chimes.
Wind Chimes make invisible forces audible via their materiality. Wilson felt these forces and their audibility were simultaneously compelling yet disturbing. Wilson’s song Wind Chimes perfectly captures this tension. The musician lulled by the soft tinkling of the chimes is trying to fight an overwhelming desire to look at them. For Mr Wilson the wind chimes were somehow emitting a kind of cosmic horror. They seemed to contain something bigger than just their function and materiality. The chimes were magical.
Listening to both the big bang recordings and to Wilson’s Wind Chime song I was struck by the idea that these recordings were about making invisible forces tangible via their audibility. They make me think of materiality and how we are all connected. These ideas are informing the work in Cosmic Noise.
Vicky Browne is based in the Blue Mountains. Her practice is concerned with familial sound technology, music culture and consumption. Her sculptural objects in Cosmic Noise seem to have come from an arts and crafts workshop rather than an electronics warehouse, for which doing rather than consuming was the key objective. There is a playful undercurrent to her work that addresses our use of technologies as a material that signposts popular culture.
DR CALEB KELLY
Winter Exhibition Suite 2018 Digital Catalogue
Find out more about the exhibition by viewing our catalogue