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AMALIA PICA | "ears to speak of" at The Power Plant, Toronto

09/29/17 - 10/31/2017

Amalia Pica will develop Ears (2017), a new body of work, for her exhibition at The Power Plant.

The nature of language, semiotic systems, metaphor, and the shaping of thought through communication has been an ongoing thread in Amalia Pica’s work. Antiquated and analog systems of technology are of interest to Pica due to their “physicality” – considered by the artist as an ontological proximity to the user or the recorded object. Her work has previously addressed both verbal and nonverbal modes of communication and the translation that takes place between ideas and objects, artist and audience. She has also explored the role of communication in the public sphere, engaging with the material mechanisms and relations of power that allow one to speak.

Her installations often foster the engagement of the audience. Switchboard (pavilion) (2013) features two wooden walls punctuated and connected by the strings of numerous tin-can telephones, those makeshift systems of exchange typically used by children. Whilst visitors are invited to use the string telephones to speak and listen to one another, the arbitrariness of the connections renders it near impossible to locate a direct channel of communication, in a visualized manifestation of crossed wires.

For her exhibition ears to speak of at The Power Plant, Amalia Pica will develop Ears (2017), a new body of work, which continues her engagement with the failures and impossibilities of communication and obsolete technologies. The artist will create cardboard reconstructions of acoustic radars, also referred to as ‘listening ears’, found in Denge, Kent in the UK. These devices were built along the north and south coastlines of England between the 1920s-1930s to pre-empt aerial attacks by detecting the sound of incoming aircraft. Now the structures stand as ruins, monuments to failure. Pica re-activates them in the context of The Power Plant, which is located at Toronto’s Harbourfront, and is enveloped by the sound of aircraft taking off and landing at the neighbouring airport. She previously created Acoustic Radar in Cardboard (2012), another precursor to radar technology from World War I, to, “make an image about listening, rather than making a functioning device.” By rendering these outmoded technologies in cardboard – a material which absorbs sound – Pica highlights the uselessness and ephemeral quality of the structures. But the work also evokes the question: if thought and space are created through articulation, what are the potentialities in failure, and how can the subjectivity of interpretation be productive?

The exhibition at The Power Plant will also feature works from Pica’s In Praise of Listening (2016) series; large-scale sculptures of hearing aids rendered in marble, granite and soapstone. At the heart of these devices is the intention to actively make listening possible on a personal level, rather than a public one. By reproducing the devices in a medium that both monumentalizes and renders them mute, Pica visualizes and aestheticizes the multitude of ways that humans attempt to communicate more effectively with one another, even as we seem to grow increasingly reluctant or unable to do so.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication, co-produced by The Power Plant and the IMA Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, where Amalia Pica will present a solo exhibition from 18 November 2017—10 March 2018.

Amalia Pica (born in 1978, Neuquén, Argentina) lives and works in London, UK. She has held solo exhibitions including Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (Forthcoming); NC Arte, Bogotá, Colombia (2017); Kunstverein Freiburg (2016); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2014); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, (2013); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, USA (2013); Modern Art Oxford, UK (2012), among others. She has also participated in group exhibitions around the world, including Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), The Netherlands (2016); Mass MoCA, Massachusetts, USA (2016); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria (2016); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2015); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2015); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014). Her work was featured in the Gwangju Biennale (2016) and the 54th Venice Biennale (2011).