Untitled (Plexus), 2022. Brass, sine waves, autonomous feedback system, and archival radio static, 60 in. high x 65 in. diameter; installation size including microphones variable. Photo: Don Stahl

Suspended States: A Conversation with Camille Norment

Camille Norment shapes sound in relation to time, space, and the human body. Her work, which embraces sculpture, architecture, and history, explores sonic and social dissonance—as well as harmony—through her notion of cultural psychoacoustics, which includes the investigation of sound as a force over cultures, societies, and minds, as well as human and non-human bodies. In her installations, live performances, and recordings, Norment combines aesthetic experience with political engagement, often employing specific cultural symbols as “quiet” but potent elements.

The two interconnected installations in “Plexus,” her recent exhibition at Dia Chelsea, entangled visitors in allusive visual and sonic systems. In one gallery, a maze of heavy wooden beams stretched across the floor and climbed the walls, spreading into the rafters. Construction site, the wreckage of a ship, or a future world being born, these enigmatic forms (which visitors could touch and sit on) vibrated with a flow of voices simultaneously mournful and joyous. The second gallery contained a single luminous brass sculpture—a bell/ horn with a clapper/mute hanging above it. Four microphones picked up the sounds of visitors moving through the space, generating sometimes jarring feedback that echoed through the sculpture to punctuate the wide-ranging tones of its low hum. As in all of Norment’s installations, sound and visual form came together to immerse visitors in a full emotional spectrum suspended between construction and destruction.

Jan Garden Castro: “Plexus” addressed the history of Dia’s Chelsea neighborhood, the architecture of the buildings and their vibrations, and bodies in space. You said that you pictured the upward-sloping ceiling in the first space as an upside-down ship. In that context, the sky through the skylights became water. Could you discuss these aspects of the work?
Camille Norment:
That location in Chelsea is essentially a territorial landfill, so its physical history is that of water. This becomes evident during hurricanes. The vaulted ceiling at 545 West 22nd Street recalls the framing of a wooden ship. . .

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