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Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) plays by its own rules. Owned and run by professional gambler, businessman, and collector David Walsh, the museum houses his extensive collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art. Pieces are displayed, or removed, at David’s whim. That being said, some have been there years. And may be for many more. Or not.
Mona’s international reputation as a leading cultural institution means it attracts touring exhibitions from international artistic heavyweights. One of these is Canadian-born, Berlin based Jeremey Shaw, who’s monumental seven-projection-screen video work ‘Phase Shifting Index’ is currently running at the museum.
With sound integral to the piece, the artist was very specific about the brand and models of loudspeakers necessary to reproduce the work as he intended. Baked into the design are 14 L-Acoustics 5XT passive coaxial 5”s, eight 112P powered 12”s, and four SB15M compact 15” subs, with the passive speakers run off four LA12X amplifiers.
The L-Acoustics rig has been provided by local sound and vision company Alive Technologies Group. “Mona are a longstanding client of ours,” says David Bell, Account Manager at Alive. “Our relationship started when we were doing live production for their one-off concerts, then production on their festivals, Mona Foma and Dark MOFO. This rig has gone in as a long-term hire, with the possibility of it being deployed on future exhibitions.”
The work’s design sees the 5XTs run as stereo pairs local to each of the seven screens. Each screen is telling a different story and running different material as part of the broader work. A separate soundscape envelops the room, courtesy two pairs of 112Ps mounted on opposite walls, augmented by the SB15Ms. Playback is from two WavePlayer8 hardware playback systems, into three Outline Newton 16-out processors.
With aesthetics a serious concern and a strict ‘no cables visible’ rule, the 5XTs are suspended on steel lines from the gallery’s roof. They 112Ps are mounted on their own fly brackets and bolted to the walls. Keeping everything this visually clean was a challenge in what is essentially a big concrete room.
“The quality of the acoustic result is exceptional,” says Mat Ward, Exhibition Services Technology Manager at Mona. “While there’s some sound proofing and carpet in the gallery, it’s still something of a concrete bunker. The loudspeakers needed to cover very precise areas, with the seven screens, soundtracks, plus ambience. When you sit in front of screens, the dialogue, music, and ambience are all separated nicely. These loudspeakers were just great for this purpose.”
With multimedia works planned for future exhibitions, Mat and the team have evaluated the L-Acoustics solution with a critical ear. “We’ve been experimenting with sound sources due to our need for loudspeakers,” confirms Mat. “We’ve found the 5XTs are very compact and hang from the ceiling nicely. I think we’ll definitely be using them in the future. We’re currently testing bits and pieces for an upcoming exhibition, which we’re still discussing with the artist.”
This was the first exhibition where Mat Ward was responsible for delivering the majority of the video and audio backbone of the show, and worked closely with Alive Technologies Group to make it happen. “David and Alive were fantastic,” reports Mat. “Their team is fast and knowledgeable, and they handled all the installation. The artist was very specific, as he should be, and there was so much going on with gear and cabling. It’s a testament to the quality of everyone’s work we’ve been running for seven weeks already, totally in sync, with zero failures. Exhibitions of this complexity have plenty of scope for errors, and there’s been none.”
This isn’t Mona’s first experience of L-Acoustics; there’s a work called ‘Super Symmetry’ running in the main gallery that Mat describes as “very bass heavy”. That work also uses 112Ps and SB15Ms. L-Acoustics products are distributed in both Australia and New Zealand by Jands, who David Bell is very impressed with; “We’ve had absolutely fantastic service from L-Acoustics and Jands,” relates David. “Jands initially couldn’t supply the speakers in the colour we needed, so they flew them in and painted them. There were tight timeframes to get all of this up and running, and they went above and beyond to make it happen against a COVID-affected supply chain.”
Alive Technologies Group has been servicing the Tasmanian industry for 20 years, initially based in hire and production, and expanding into fabrication and installation over the years. The powerhouse that is Mona has been responsible for a huge upswing in work in the Apple Isle, particularly as COVID restrictions have eased. “Production work is definitely back with vengeance,” concludes David. “We’re now finding it hard to keep up with the growth in the industry in Tasmania. A lot of this has been focussed around Mona and the festivals. I haven’t seen this volume of work in 20 years.”
PHOTO CREDITS: Mona/Jesse Hunniford. Images courtesy Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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