Review by Elisabeth Mahoney
Standing in the shallow end of Cardigan's public swimming pool, there is no sign of artist Yvonne Buchheim's installation. Those in the pool, however, are acting strangely: there's not much swimming or splashing going on, and the space is eerily quiet. A young boy hovers at the side of the pool, his head tilted, giggling to himself.
It's only when you dip your head into the water that a rich sound archive reveals itself. Hidden underwater speakers play an assortment of more than 800 songs collected by Buchheim from non-professional singers across Europe, the US and Iran. The songs - random titles, chosen by the singers - are often incomplete, delivered in snatches of remembered choruses and bits of verses, and the singing ranges from impressive to truly, addictively dire.
To listen, you have to immerse yourself underwater or float on your back, cutting yourself off from the usual rituals of swimming and risking bumping into equally distracted strangers who may well be laughing or singing along. The sound, existing only in the water, is intense and private like a memory, but fleeting and unpredictable. The songs fade away as singers forget the words, or sudden shyness impedes them.
Buchheim leaves gaps, and in these spaces you can't help wonder which song you might sing, and how. There is, in this unobtrusive, playful installation in a public space, an innocent and charismatic joy. It draws on the sonic world of the swimming pool - all echoes and shouts swooping about the place - but temporarily isolates you from it, too. What the work quietly achieves is a moment of surprise and wonder that cheers you long after you leave the water and its musical secrets.