Review: Juan Antonio Nieto – Airports & Hotels

Nieto talks about mixing these sounds, which were captured at airports, hotels and on aeroplanes all over the world, in a way that tries to maintain “the spirit they had at their origin”. Yet of course, visits to these places are often marked by disorientation – the unrest of travel logistics, the process of familiarising with new environments, the throb and blur of jet lag, the occasional pangs of homesickness. The audio-warping of “Córdoba”, for example, feels appropriate: rainfall twisted to emulate the clacking and grinding of a robot mouth, which in turn duets with the musical, almost divine hum of an air conditioning unit. The shuffling plastics of “Prague” – like someone wrenching apart broken toys underwater – juxtapose with the echoes of abandoned departure lounges.

I hear Nieto negotiating the transition between cavernous airport halls and cramped hotel bedrooms, jarred by the contradiction that such impersonal spaces are constructed for the transfer and rest of human beings. I imagine that it is this very discordance that causes reality to rip ever-so-slightly, exaggerating the bitter weather of “Berlin” into a dangerous monsoon and stretching the motor noise on “Vienna” into a nauseating purr. And yet at times I’m reminded that there is a fatigued subject at the centre of all this movement and refraction. Halfway through the texture collage of “Budapest” – ripped paper, rattled matchboxes, squeezed cling-film wrapping, palms rubbed together for warmth – Nieto lets out a long sigh. Bored, perhaps? Or exhausted by the constant movement and change?