‘Ringo’ is a site-specific sound installation performance by Tetsuya Umeda, in which he explores the “dynamic and uncanny environments” through found objects, sound and light.
Wearing a loose grey T-shirt and a tool bag across his hip bone, Umeda occasionally pokes his head out from upstairs as he pushes and swings the megaphone suspended mid-air, which permeates The Substation with ambient noise recorded by a smartphone. That was my first glimpse of Umeda’s action or, more precisely, my observation of him having a dialogue with the architectural space before the show starts.
Upon entering the performing space, we immediately notice a modified globe with flickering lights connected to a megaphone close to the centre. Both of them spin, just out of synchronicity, and it creates a rotation of light, shadow and intricately textured tapestries.
Umeda’s found objects and domestic treasures sit in the late afternoon sun, waiting to be summoned. There is a black rubbish bin, some plastic water bottles, tin baskets and tubes in various sizes, portable stoves like those in a Korean BBQ restaurants, metal frames and a pack of rice.
In ‘Ringo’, Umeda investigates the interrelations between the ephemeral and the permanent with an almost childlike playfulness. In his artist statement, he announces that “Ringo means apple in Japanese, but never mind it.”
He operates like a craftsman in the labyrinth of his soundscape, working with the objects by burning and heating them. This physical tension is enhanced by the ambient noise running in the background.
Situating himself among the scavenged materials, Umeda seems interested in the simplicity and reimagining of the daily functionality of his objects. Here, we come to understand their diverse possibilities as a collective whole.
Water, heat, metal, glass, thin wire and light are transformed as Umeda sculptures before us. We look on as bubbles shimmer, and a tumbling light bulb floats in a gigantic glass bowl. We see Umeda’s hand through the water in a reverse visual effect.
Our senses are heightened and amplified, marked by the water dripping from a cut water bottle that hangs from the ceiling. As soon as we adjust to one rhythm, Umeda turns the searchlight toward another unexpected dark corner. The audience beams as the next development again goes beyond anticipation.
The suspended megaphone continues at the periphery, complementing a soundscape that alternates between being eerie, sharp, and soothing. Sometimes we hear what sounds like a crying baby, then interrupted by a whispered lullaby followed by rush footsteps.
I can’t help but wonder whether the whole sonic experience is indeed designed to be from the perspective of a newborn baby. A baby who is making their discovery of the universe of sound for the first time in a domesticated environment?
‘Ringo’ is an immensely satisfying experience. It is an abstract, sonic ride that engages the audience with from beginning to the end.