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Book Review: Resonantia


Book Review Resonantia By Louviere + Vanessa Reviewed by David Ondrik Resonantia, by New Orleans artists Louviere + Vanessa, is a puzzling, fun, interactive artwork that doubles as an exhibition catalogue. Limited to 400 copies, it’s not really a book, but a vinyl 33 1/3 record with a gatefold cover. It’s also more than a record.

Resonantia. Louviere + Vanessa.
Louviere + Vanessa, 2015.
 
Resonantia
Reviewed by David Ondrik

Resonantia
Photographs by Louviere + Vanessa.
Louviere + Vanessa, New Orleans, USA, 2015. In English. four pp., 15 four-color offset illustrations, 12x12".


Resonantia, by New Orleans artists Louviere + Vanessa, is a puzzling, fun, interactive artwork that doubles as an exhibition catalogue. Limited to 400 copies, it’s not really a book, but a vinyl 33 1/3 record with a gatefold cover. It’s also more than a record. Sliding the record from its archival bag, the viewer is greeted with a luscious reproduction of the duo’s newest experiments in visual art: abstract patterns that are visualizations of sound. The cover is distinguished by smartly applied spot varnish to create a black-on-black image on the otherwise matte surface. Opening the gatefold reveals more sound-based visual abstractions reproduced here with golden ink that sparkles under the spot varnish, shimmering like the original mixed media art works. The LP is wrapped in a paper sleeve printed with more yellow-gold imagery, and there is a sheet with the artist’s statement and a 12” x 12” sheet of mirror-like paper to make a spectrometer. The vinyl itself is visually arresting: a reproduction of the cover image is lacquered into side B, and side A is half sound-grooves and half lacquered images of birds.

Resonantia. Louviere + Vanessa. Louviere + Vanessa, 2015.

Although Resonantia is great if you stop right there, to have the full experience you’ll need a record player, scissors, and tape. To the horror of collectors everywhere, the mirror-paper must be cut along the dotted lines and taped together to make the spectrometer. It’s basically a twelve-sided mirror that rests on the turntable spindle. After lining up each facet of the spectrometer to one of the lacquered birds, playing the record at 33 1/3 causes the birds to take animated flight. The first track is a soundscape that is purely experiential; there’s no beat, melody, or harmony to the tones. The second track is a duet sung by the artists in the “Southern Gothic style” that reminded me of the Handsome Family. Side B is relatively formless sound that plays equally well at 33 1/3 or 45 rpm, but will test a listener’s aural endurance in either case.

Resonantia. Louviere + Vanessa. Louviere + Vanessa, 2015.

Overall I have a mixed reaction to Resonantia. I’m intrigued by the idea of making sound from images and images from sound. The abstract imagery is beautifully deliberate, neither over-designed nor too random. The golden and black palette is rich, and the use of glossy spot varnish on the matte base makes them come alive. I’m also drawn to using the physicality of vinyl as more than a music delivery service.

Resonantia. Louviere + Vanessa. Louviere + Vanessa, 2015.

Jack White’s Third Man Records has been experimenting with vinyl for a few years, notably with hidden tracks in the paper label, animations in the dead wax ring, and multiple playback speeds on the same platter. However, the experimental nature of these tricks shows through when they’re accessed; they don’t sound or look all that great in the end. Resonantia has similar flaws. I’m on the fence whether the jerky bird animation is worth the effort of cutting out, folding, and taping together the spectrometer. I also can’t imagine playing Side B more than once. On the other hand, I appreciated being immersed physically, aurally, and visually in the record.

If you’re a fan of engaging art objects, vinyl records, or Louviere + Vanessa, you’ve probably already got a copy on the way. It’s definitely an unusual exhibition catalogue worth checking out.—DAVID ONDRIK

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DAVID ONDRIK is an artist, teacher, and writer who has been devoted to photography since adolescence. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana and has a web site, www.bromidedrag.com.

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