Review: Proto Bla, Sound and Video collaboration by Natalie Sanders and Matthew Johnstone

Proto Bla, Elevator Gallery, Hackney Wick

 We were delighted to be invited to independent ware-gallery Elevator for a private, private view held speshly for La Bouche of sound-video collaboration PROTO BLA.

We are used to exiting the rusty elevator doors into a full blown party heaving with the night creatures of the underground art world. Today however, it was a much more minimalist vision; one bare space, one wooden bench, several speakers atop plinths and a screen. First up, we sat (a la bench) facing the speakers and visual artist and soundstress Natalie Sanders’ piece - an array of pre-recorded pop songs by her mates. Each speaker simultaneously projected a different voice, singing the same song in completely varying styles, pitches and tones somehow amazingly in sync. The overall effect was very nice n trippy - at times feeling like there were invisible imps in the gallery singing Robbie Williams, and at others reminiscent of some kind of psychosis.

We were very struck by the way these several contrasting voices had all been synced into one version. “They sung along to You Tube Videos with the subtitles to the songs so I knew it would end up synchronised” Sanders tells me of the quirky sound collage which struck us as an almost rawer, more amusing version of Turner Prize winner Susan Phillipsz' ’Surround me'. "I hadn't actually been to see the work but have heard about it." says Natalie "They seem to be similar in that they are both inclusive, in that they're not works which are restricted to people with a high understanding to sound and media.”

Next we swivel on the bench where we were this time confronted by a collage of a different medium - Hyper Macho YouTube videos with juxtaposing soundtracks fill the screen. “Yes!“ blared repeatedly over Zidanne’s disastrous world cup head-butt, a slow motion clip of a boxer being pummeled in the face to classical music and then, the most poignant, a childrens' army computer game with a real SOS navigator's voice synced over the footage. You would not realise the latter were a juxtaposition at all, which was quite possibly the artist's point.

We swiveled to another round of amusing pop songs and then back again to the screen where this time, as Curator Simon Reuben White explained, the ‘juxtaposing’ had been stripped down to its bare minimum - a simplistic series of contrasting colors.

We loved this collaboration, and especially appreciated the Piracy element to it (whether this was intentional or not) whereby naff songs and footage were nabbed and used instead to make amusing art. Proto Bla is among the cleverest n coolest art we’ve seen in a while - it‘s a shame you always have to go as far out of town as possible to find it. LB!


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