Billboard Series #11:
David Horvitz (US)
When The Ocean Sounds
09/03 — 17/06/2018
David Horvitz (° 1982, Los Angeles) is an American artist who works between the realm of the virtual and the physical, exploring the boundary where these two spheres meet. It is very difficult to explain what David Horvitz does exactly, and what makes him such an interesting artist. He often jokes about how his wife and friends think he is lazy, while actually, he is constantly working. You could say that through his work, Horvitz creates a caption for the world rather than a new image for it. Through various conceptual strategies, he reflects in a poetic, visual way on how we occupy a place in the world – be it digitally or ‘in real life’.
David Horvitz uses different media and distribution methods to share his ideas: from photography and performance to books, conceptual websites, online interventions, and ‘mail art’. In many of his works, the artist plays with the boundaries of the artwork, with how we receive and read it, and how we ultimately understand it.
Distance and time often play an important role in David Horvitz‘ work. For Let us keep our own noon, for example, he made 47 handbells by melting down an old French church bell from 1742. At noon – when the sun is right above the place where the work is shown – performers activate the work by ringing the bells together and then spreading throughout the exhibition space and the surrounding neighbourhood. Each one continues to ring her or his own bell until she no longer hears any other bell.
The sea also holds a special place in David Horvitz‘ practice – as in the work that he made for our own Billboard Series. The artist made a score for a human voice, intended to mimic the sound of the sea. Horvitz lives in Los Angeles and sees the beach as an extension of his studio. It is a place where he goes to distance himself, to clear his head and to think. On the beach of Palos Verdes, Horvitz transcribed the sound of the sea, in his mother tongue English. The work is linked to an idea that Horvitz read in a book by maritime biologist Rachel Carson. Carson writes that the percentage of salt in the sea is equal to the salinity of our blood. This idea supports the theory that all life comes from the sea. Imagine the first life forms, with porous skin or cell walls, through which the sea could freely flow into and out of their small bodies. At a certain moment, however, these life forms evolve. They come out of the sea and develop a different type of skin that allows them to keep liquids within their bodies. These liquids are ultimately seawater, and so in principle they – and we – carry the sea with them, no matter where they go.
In a way, transcribing and performing sea sounds are exercises in listening and meditating loudly. At the same time, they are exercises in imagining or remembering that we are actually part of the sea. In addition to this meditative aspect, the work that Horvitz made for Billboard Series also plays with time and distance. As part of the large movement of the oceans, the seawater of the wave that Horvitz transcribed in Los Angeles at the beginning of 2018 will also reach our beach and through the Ghent harbour eventually become part of the river adjacent to the billboard.
All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene
Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.
Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with 019. Billboard Series is curated by Thomas Caron, takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.