Sound Art Alumnus Kamari Carter ’18 in Solo Show at Microscope Gallery

Mădălina Telea Borteș
April 25, 2023

From April 6 to May 13, 2023, Microscope Gallery is presenting Phantom Power, a solo show by Sound Art alumnus Kamari Carter ’18

Upon entering the gallery, one is immediately confronted with a series of black megaphones aligned at ear-level along the main wall. The ten megaphones that make up Event Horizon (2023) are broadcasting police radio transmissions, which, one learns from the show’s press release, have come “from locations across the U.S. that have the highest rate of deaths of Black Americans at the hands of the police.” Without such accompanying information, however, one is invited to physically lean in to discern the words spoken within a circuit of enjambed phrases. Thereafter, several choices ensue: how long to stand, listen, and then wait in the silence punctuating the bursts of discourse before moving forth to the next megaphone? There is no immediately perceptible pattern to the words broadcast from each megaphone, making for an effect that is at once suspenseful and stunning. 

On one end of the opposite wall, Carter has installed A Ballad for Black Blood, (HD single-channel video, color sound, 8’ 17,’’ 2020), which consists of water and skyscape scenes on a large flat-screen television accompanied by “transmissions of emergency medical services recorded during the arrest of 23-year old Elijah McClain,” who died at the hands of police officers on August 19, 2019. Unlike Event Horizon (2023), a definitive beginning and end point exists in A Ballad for Black Blood (2020), and the transmitted words are heard via a pair of headphones. Despite the privacy that a pair of headphones may provide, Carter has managed to utilize the pauses within both pieces’ soundscapes to create an echo and a blurring of borders between Event Horizon (2023) and A Ballad for Black Blood (2020). 

On the other end of the wall opposite Event Horizon (2023) is a third multi-media installation piece, Original Programming (HD single-channel video, color, sound, 6’ 20,’’ 2023), which also includes an accompanying pair of headphones. Depending on when one encounters the piece, Whitney Houston’s face comes into view: she is singing the National Anthem at the XXV Super Bowl in 1991. The screen flits and changes to advertisements and fragments from films such as Story of Our Flag (1939) and The Egg and US (1952).  

As the gallery’s press release aptly notes, in Phantom Power, Carter has transformed the gallery space into an “invitation to ask oneself whose narratives and voices are heard and how that reflects upon systems of control and oppression in the United States.”

Kamari Carter (b. 1992) is a producer, performer, sound designer, and installation artist primarily working with sound and found objects. Carter's practice circumvents materiality and familiarity through a variety of recording and amplification techniques to investigate notions such as space, systems of identity, oppression, control, and surveillance. Driven by the probative nature of perception and the concept of conversation and social science, he seeks to expand narrative structures through sonic stillness. Carter’s work has been exhibited at such venues as Automata Arts, MoMA, Mana Contemporary, RISD Museum, Flux Factory, Lenfest Center for the Arts, WaveHill and has been featured in a range of major publications including ArtNet, Precog Magazine, LevelGround and WhiteWall. Carter holds a BFA in Music Technology from California Institute of the Arts and an MFA in Sound Art from Columbia University.