The Saturday Paper | Review: Frances Barrett’s ‘Meatus’ at ACCA

Frances Barrett, Hayley Forward and Brian Fuata’s worm divination (segmented realities) 2020. Credit: Andrew Curtis.

The body’s wordless vocalisations – the labour of breathing, the sound of gurgles, gasps of desire or fear – have a power that can be dangerous, erotic and disturbingly intimate. They escape the limits of language and permit something else to pour out.

For the exhibition Meatus, Frances Barrett has transformed the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) into a large-scale sound installation, collaborating with six artists to centre the act of listening. Across four rooms, each lit in full-blooded red, are carefully arranged black Yamaha speakers and cords. In the wider field of sound art this isn’t unusual, but it certainly isn’t standard in Australian galleries, where sound is often accompanied by or sublimated to a visual. While art history privileges the eye, Meatus becomes an experiment in exhibiting aurality.

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