Zarouhie Abdalian at Berkeley Art Museum

Hammers and bells, sometimes invisible or inaudible, are at the crux of Zarouhie Abdalian’s exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum. In a work titled “As a demonstration,” a small hammer strikes a bronze-colored bell. The bell’s ringing is unexpectedly trapped by its own vacuum-sealed display case. Conversely, an opaque black vitrine several feet away emits a tapping sound but conceals its source, its internal workings masked by its slick exterior.

The third and final work, “Ad libitum (If I Had a Hammer),” consists of a brass string hung horizontally to the wall, with bone guitar saddles supposedly marking pitch intervals from Pete Seeger’s 1949 protest song, “If I Had a Hammer.” (Apparently, this is currently the official song of WikiLeaks.) The string is silent, stationary, and visually unimpressive next to the sleek vitrines, which seem shrewdly aware of their own context within a museum.

The cocktail of allusions to American protests is poignant, the exhibition coinciding with both the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as well as the conviction of Wikileak-er Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning. Abdalian’s works scrutinize both accessibility and observation. When the hammer comes down, who exactly is watching? Who is listening?

Zarouhie Abdalian, “MATRIX 249,” Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, California through 29 September, 2013

 

Zarouhie Abdalian at Berkeley Art Museum

Zarouhie Abdalian, Installation view of Matrix 249. Photo: Sibila Savage. Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley

 

Zarouhie Abdalian at Berkeley Art Museum

Zarouhie Abdalian, “As a demonstration,” 2013; acrylic vacuum chamber,
electric bell, and steel; 22 x 22 x 25 in. Photo: Sibila Savage. Matrix 249, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley.

 

Zarouhie Abdalian at Berkeley Art Museum

Zarouhie Abdalian, “Each envelope as before,” 2013. Acrylic vitrine, electronics,
and steel; 47 ¾ x 70 x 38 in.; Photo: Sibila Savage. Matrix 249, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley.

 

Zarouhie Abdalian at Berkeley Art Museum

Zarouhie Abdalian, “Each envelope as before,” 2013. Acrylic vitrine, electronics,
and steel; 47 ¾ x 70 x 38 in.; Photo: Sibila Savage. Matrix 249, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley.

 

Zarouhie Abdalian at Berkeley Art Museum

Zarouhie Abdalian, “Ad Libitum (If I Had a Hammer),” 2013; bone, brass, wire,
and tuner; dimensions variable. Photo: Sibila Savage. Matrix 249, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley.

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by Evan Reiser
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