Earlier this year, an eight-foot-across circle of solid ice was hung from the ceiling of Winnipeg’s RAW: Gallery of Architecture and Design. Why would anyone in the world’s second-coldest city (after Ulan Bator, Mongolia) want that legendary cold brought indoors? The occasion was the mounting of a new work by Portuguese-born, Berlin-based sound artist Gil Delindro for the Cluster New Music and Integrated Arts Festival, held in the Manitoba capital in March 2014. Responding to a call for submissions on the theme of amplification, this young artist born into a warm climate travelled from chilly Berlin to cold, cold Canada to create a sound-installation piece he would never be able to create back in his homeland.
“I like to take a specific idea or object, and explore it as far as I can go,” explains Delindro a week later, over hot coffee in a winter-locked Toronto, the next stop on his short North American performance tour. “Someone from Winnipeg might well ask, ‘What the fuck does this guy want? He’s not from here, where we’re always dealing with cold.’ But I actually went there to get in touch with the city’s weather and with the constant ice and freezing of things.”
Delindro’s piece, Tao, described by the artist as “land art brought inside into a sound environment,” consisted of a huge circle of ice with microphones and strong ropes frozen inside it, a natural–cultural artifact created outdoors, brought inside, and suspended from the ceiling above a matching circle of metal, which was heated and hooked up to a six-speaker system. The artist mixed the sounds of cracking, heaving, dripping, hissing, and bubbling, creating a sonic environment in the room for visitors to explore over the course of two hours.
“The idea was not just to explore the icy part, but to get as many different sounds from water as possible,” says Delindro. “Instead of exploring an instrument I might carry with me in my bag, I was exploring the qualities of what was there. This is a piece that could only have been possible to create in Winnipeg.”
While it’s clear that Gil Delindro is more explorer than simply artist or musician, his mode of exploration is about connecting listeners in a new way with lost, universal, and everyday experiences, rather than discovering some imagined horizon—more Emerson than Shackleton. Like the Transcendentalists, Delindro seeks to understand the human experience through solitary communion with nature. But being a twenty-first-century artist, Delindro amplifies nature through judicious, thoughtful use of technology in order to reflect our place in the natural world back to us in a way our digital-addled brains can understand.
[FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE IN PRINT EDITION ONLY. SUBSCRIBE NOW TO RECEIVE #119, SUMMER 2014, PRINT ISSUE WITH COMPANION CD, which includes live improvisation by Gil Delindro recorded during a performance at Silent Barn in Brooklyn in 2014.]
Image: Gil Delindro with sound installation Tao at the 2014 Cluster Festival in Winnipeg. Image by: Pablo Riquelme.