Dave Dyment’s practice deals with sound as both medium and subject matter, exploring the shared associations of pop music. His work is conceptually rigorous and combines humour and the blend of high and low art. For TRUCK he will be exhibiting a series of score-based works – some realized, some not.
Dave Dyment is an artist and writer based in Toronto. His work has been exhibited in Edmonton, Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto, Philadelphia and Dublin. He is currently the Director of Programming at the artist-run centre Mercer Union.
Dave Dyment’s White Noise (2005) is an audio work that takes all of the tracks from the Beatles’ White Album and, using time-stretch software, lengthens or shortens them to their average length (3:06), and plays them simultaneously, creating a cacophonous roar through which one can barely make out traces of the original. This time-lapse audio portrait of an album in some sense exemplifies Dyment’s artistic approach. It employs a seductive “call” to the beholder, referring to a pop-cultural monument that has wide-spread appeal and familiarity. But rather than providing a passive and nostalgic revisiting of single hit songs—so that one may, with comfortable ease, ask “Where and when did I first hear it?”—it provokes an active “response” that alternates between the experience of mere noise that challenges one’s attention span, and a series of unsentimental speculations: for instance, despite the noise one cannot help but strive to detect familiar phrases and reassuring notes, as well as consider subcultures preoccupied with the dissection and manipulation of songs, including those intent on revealing hidden occultist messages.
Dyment consistently manages to make clichéd sources strange—and worthwhile once again as objects of study and contemplation. Duet (2008) features a dog and gramophone that unmistakably recall another mythical bit of music history: the RCA/HMV logo, deriving from a painting dating from the 1890s, starring the intently listening canine Nipper. The video may trigger both shared and personal memories of specific RCA records or recording artists—thus demonstrating the power of one of the most successful marketing images in the history of the music industry—but Dyment’s portrayal frustrates the desire for such mere easy-going reminiscences. The dog depicted, which happens to belong to the artist, wears a protective plastic cone collar, an accessory that strikes sad and comic notes, and mirrors the gramophone’s form. But the audio component of this short video includes only the closing fade-out of the song “Day in the Life” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. Included as well are a few seconds of a 15-kilocycle tone, which exists just below audible human levels and therefore functions more like a dog whistle. Awareness of the inaudible sound may cause one to reconsider the plastic cone, which might normally represent a handicap, as a sign for the dog’s amplified hearing and superior ability to detect and reveal realities that are most often ignored and dismissed as silence or noise.
Rooted in the tradition of pioneering Fluxus artists such as George Brecht and Yoko Ono, Dyment’s score-based practice is initially conceived as written proposals, composed of directions that may or may not be followed and realized, recalling Lawrence Weiner’s often-quoted conceptual-art credo “The work need not be made.” The conspicuous lack of whole and coherent objects to fetishize in “Call and Response”—either material or audio products—reflects a critical mode of thought that is more about repeated questioning, rather than definitive answering, of our common cultural landscape and history. This tendency is perhaps best expressed by the video Pop Quiz (2001), a work that includes every question posed in every song in Dyment’s own eclectic record and CD collection. As the video plays, one silently sings a duet with each musician so the each query potentially takes on a diverse symbolic life that is freed from the constraints of its original symbolic context: The lines “Where are you now when I need you?” and “What the hell am I supposed to do?” both speak to the productive predicament of not being spoon-fed easy entertainment products—so that we may become motivated to come up with critical content to fill the awkward pauses and silences.