Contemporary artist and experimental "noise musician", Marco Fusinato, has witnessed some scary audience reactions to his enormous sound installation, Constellations, 2015/2018, which invites visitors to pick up a baseball bat and bash what seems to be a plain white gallery wall.
Inside the wall are 16 microphones connected to a concert-size amplifier that send 120 decibels reverberating through the space when struck.
In straight-jacketed Singapore where the piece premiered in 2015 six bats were smashed in the first two days necessitating their replacement with an aluminium version.
"It was frightening watching the aggression of people as they unleash," Fusinato said. "It's heavy. You really get a sense of how people are feeling and how they behave especially in a space which is usually so passive. Everybody is different. Some choose not to do it. Some of the people I didn't expect were the more aggressive. I did see some school girls who were really super aggressive and I didn't see that coming."
At Carriageworks for the Biennale of Sydney, Fusinato has set a one-strike limit. Will the bat survive the native aggression of Sydneysiders? I'm looking forward to seeing how decimated one side of the wall ends up," he said.
The sound wall is one of the more interactive artworks to be showcased in the Sydney Biennale which opens across seven venues on Friday, March 16. Fusinato is one of 15 Australian artists invited to participate. Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei heads an impressive international line-up of 55 practitioners.
On Wednesday NSW residents have been invited to an advance preview of the biennale's 21st show, titled SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement curated by artistic director Mami Kataoka who had a practice swing of the bat on Friday.
Fusinato's work Constellations refers to the multitude of star-like dents that result from the strikes on the plaster wall.
It demonstrates Fusinato's continuing interest in reverberative noise and its capacity to structure physical space. But it is also an experiment in audience behaviour.
"One expects to hear the splinter of wood against plasterboard but it is overtaken by the impact of the amplified sound," Fusinato said. "So it is quite a physical experience for the audience. They recoil from their own action."
The idea, says Fusinato, came out of thinking about filmic representations of violence. The baseball and chain has turned up in episodes of The Sopranos and The Simpsons.
But it also is a commentary on the changing face and function of museum and galleries. Fusinato says these institutions have become like "shopping malls", needing to attract large numbers of visitors to justify government support and corporate sponsorship.
"Museums have changed from being a place of contemplation into one of entertainment and I'm interested in that shift and how we deal with that and [playing with] audiences' expectations also," he said.
"This piece certainly plays on those tensions and contradictions. Noise versus silence. One side is passive, the other side aggressive. Certainly there is a lot of different tensions in the piece."
Constellations, 2015/2018 will be on display 10am-6pm daily at Carriageworks for the duration of the Biennale of Sydney Friday, March 16-Monday, June 11.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter