Artist Gordon Monahan turns volume up at UTSC gallery

“This is the noisiest exhibition we’ve ever had,” Erin Peck says.

The Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus is offering the public a chance to explore the works of artist and musician Gordon Monahan for free until April 13.

Monahan’s works are described as experimental music and sound art, creating not only a visual masterpiece but an auditory one as well.

“It’s interesting to think of the gallery as an acoustic environment, not just a visual space,” said Peck, a coordinator at the gallery.

The gallery is showcasing five of Monahan’s works spanning decades of his career.

In “Piano Airlift”, visitors enter a dark room with a piano playing what some have described as an eerie tune. Projected on a screen in front of the piano is a helicopter with a piano hanging below. The piano is dropped over a cliff as the song reaches a new crescendo.

In Piano Airlift, a song is heard from a piano that plays without a pianist. Some visitors have described the tune as eerie.

[audio:http://www.torontoobserver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Pianoairlift2.mp3]

While Monahan agreed the piece could be interpreted in many ways, he said he’s heard interpretations that never crossed his mind.

“Some people were angry that I destroyed the piano,” he said. “I knew the piano was already destroyed [before it was dropped] but I guess that is not obvious to the average person.”

It took some time after making the video before Monahan found a place for it, he said.

“For 18 years I did nothing with it,” he said. “Then in Austria I was asked to create a piece using video. And I dug up that old .”

Other pieces showing at the Doris McCarthy Gallery include “Theremin Pendulum” and “Music from Nowhere“. The most recent piece, “A Piano Listening to Itself”, is the gallery’s first outdoor installation.

The gallery offers visitors a chance to explore types of art they are not familiar with, Peck said.

“[Monahan] is also interested in the social and cultural impact of sound, which is something we can all relate to,” Peck said. “We are surrounded by it all the time.

“Sometimes we just need to take the opportunity to listen.”