As of today, I’ve spent two beautiful mornings working downstairs at HCL on a sound installation to take place on August 25th—it’ll be a double show with spectacular photographer Matthew Gregory Hollis (more to come on that later). Given the nature of the piece, I thought it best to spend one morning a week in the space, listening to the room, learning about its acoustic qualities, and using whatever time I have left to meditate. The rest of the week, I work at home, designing object-specific digital filters. When I say object, that’s literally what I mean. I’ve been mounting speaker components inside of things I find around my apartment. So far, I have a crockpot, a suitcase, and a lampshade. Initially, I wanted my project to explore the way that we as passive listeners perceive the messages in our environments, highlighting the role of filtering as it affects the way a message is absorbed and processed (Ha! Pun intended!) by a listener. I wanted to use both digital and acoustic filters, some of them interactive.
The more I worked with my acoustic filters (crockpot, suitcase, lampshade, other compoundword, etc.), however, the more I noticed something I had completely neglected to take into account in my initial conceptualization. The objects I’ve been working with are loaded not only with acoustic properties, but also with their own messages. This always happens. I start with one idea, and before I can finish wrapping my mind around it, the actual materials I’m using begin to develop lives of their own. This is often the most annoying and the most engaging part of the creative process for me. Nothing ever ends the way it began, and I think this is where the actual art-ing happens. For instance, a crockpot, especially the one I’ve been using—late 70s, faded marigold with orange and brown paisley print, white enameled inside—carries its own sort of pathos, which may be different for different viewers and listeners. When I look at it, I have feelings of warmth and comfort, coziness—after the installation, I’d kind of like to use it as a planter for my philodendron. When I listen to it, however, it becomes an entirely different bag of marbles. For starters, anything coming out of a speaker mounted inside a steel pot sounds like an angry rattlesnake thrashing around in a pile of aluminum cans—don’t ask me how I know what that sounds like. For me, its aural message is quite different from its emotional message. And I couldn’t just ignore that, so now, I’ve decided to make that discrepancy a part of the piece. Very often, particularly where commercial messages are concerned, we as consumers are taught that certain objects mean certain things –“an antique crockpot will bring warmth and old-fashioned charm to your home”—or…I dunno—“a dude in a sweater vest is earnest.” How I’m going to make it a part of the piece is still in the works, but it will have something to do with the way I design digital filters to correlate with each object and how they are displayed physically (And besides, I can’t just tell you how it’s going to work. That would just completely ruin completely everything). And since I intend to use eight different speakers, in turn eight different acoustic objects, I also get to design an eight-voice, polyphonic musical experience.
As an added layer, in this piece, as well as in other works of mine, I am exploring the idea of intimacy. The room downstairs at HCL is a wonderful space for such an exploration. I’ve learned in my two testing sessions that it supports both cacophony and delicateness at the same time, depending on where in the room a listener is standing. As is the case with most messages that penetrate the consciousness, the closer one moves toward the message, the more fragile it becomes. I’m excited to design an experience that encourages the examination of consciousness as listeners move toward a vulnerable expressive source whose nature will evolve along with its audience’s awareness of themselves. And hopefully, along the way, I will evolve as well.
HCL-sponsored artist Jenna Lyle’s show in collaboration with Matthew Hollis will take place on August 25th. To RSVP for the event, send your name and number of guests to RSVP@Highconceptlaboratories.org.