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Image-Free Art

Julian Dashper gives us audio but no visuals in his recordings of the museum exhibit environment

Outside Rothko Chapel (2001-2003) is a locally recorded piece, "Side 1, recorded from 5.30 pm 23rd September 2001 Houston, Texas. Side 2, recorded from 5.30 pm 24th September 2001 Houston, Texas." Rather than document the self-conscious reverence of the chapel, Dashper has made his recording standing outside. You kind of hope somebody came up and had an interesting conversation with him, but maybe you just hear some birds and the occasional police siren in the background. Side two was apparently recorded out back with the ambient sound of the air-conditioning units. Inside the album cover are the fragments of a torn-up postcard of Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk in the reflecting pond outside the chapel. Poetic musings are written on the back. Was it really found outside the chapel as the artist has said, or is it a plant?

There are a lot of other little coded art-world references in the work. For part of another work, I am nature (2001-2003), he made a recording on Fireplace Road, the place where bombed-out-of-his-mind Jackson Pollock ran his car off the road, killing himself and Edith Metzger, his passenger. The second side is identified as "Studio drip, recorded from 3.30 pm 31st March 2002 Waterview, Auckland." Dripping water in the studio, dripping paint, Jack the Dripper?

In an interview accompanying the exhibition, Dashper shows a few more of his cards. Getting Ready (2001-2001) is identified as being recorded in Quemado, New Mexico. This is where Walter De Maria's Lightning Field is located. "Those people who have been there will instantly recognize the name of the tiny town where Dia has its office, where their representatives meet you and take you to the work." But, Dashper concedes, "Those who haven't been there, I guess, will find this line willfully obscure." Dashper's goal isn't to test your art-world trivia skills; he has a healthy sense of humor and anticlimax. "I guess the fact that on one I chose to record myself in the bathroom there, nervously getting ready to walk around the piece for the first time, makes the whole idea of a direct homage seem less of a blanket strategy and a little more like Mr. Bean meets Walter De Maria."

"Unique Records" explores context as it archives the sounds around art. Like all good conceptual art, most of the appeal lies in the idea, but a good part of the appeal also lies in our imagining of what's on each record. Maybe there is some great truth to be told or some secret to be revealed. Or maybe it's just the sound of some guy in the bathroom getting ready to drive out into a field of lightning rods.

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