Placed in center-stage of the cube-shaped gallery were four devices constructed from recycled furnace-boxes and other natural and industrial debris. These functioned as containers and resonators for motion-triggered sound modules that were constructed earlier in Hawai'i. The continuously varying sonic output was composed from digitally recorded sounds from the Adirondack and Finger Lakes Regions of Upstate New York during the three weeks prior to the design and assembly of the installation. During this time video imagery from these upstate regions was collected, digitized, re-composed, and juxtaposed. Compositional technique combined impeccably logical choices with indeterminant processes (as was the case with the sonic composing ).
10"x 16" prints were made using a consumer ink-jet printer on donated mis-sized cover stock. Walls were covered with tar paper which was also used to mat the prints. While this darkened environment was designed to enhance the luminance of the prints and to create the sense of being inside of a box, the very minimal amount of lighting necessary to bring a glow to the work also created a dream-like ambience. The plastic frogs are off-the-shelf schlock landscaping ornaments that croak three times when approached. Each print is paired with a frog. I couldn't resist incorporating them. The central floor area is covered with a 12 foot hexagon of that wonderful cheap fake grass which serves as a stage for the industrial nature-containing devices (sculptures?). The pile of rocks in the center of the space are flat stones from an area of Seneca Lake where I camped to get early morning recordings.
The reverse flow paradox reflects our often private wish to somehow bring back the parts of the past that were "better"...not to return to the past but to have concurrently the most desirable elements of both past and present. This work reflects my own desire to not only retreat to my secluded log cabin but also to have my lap-top connected to the very world I seek escape from. I find it very curious that our species has evolved to the point that we acknowledge that we need to take great effort to protect nature from ourselves so that we can enjoy... ...under limited conditions... that very nature. I have also noted the incredible number of "nature tapes" now being sold at record stores...a morning in the Andes...a rainstorm in New England. While the implications of our buying into virtual realities is interesting, the extent to which we unknowingly do so is a little scary. Simply, I have placed recordings of protected nature into a protective box which allows limited and timed access to once removed sounds.
Nature-In-A-Box: (details) four black industrial steel furnace boxes found in the Oceanography dumpster at UH. Inside are rebuilt auto-reverse car stereos modified for AC power. The tubular pedestals the boxes rest on are pvc sewer pipe and actually function as resonators for the speakers which are mounted just below the box and pointed upwards into the box where their sound is reflected horizontally by aluminum or plywood focusing baffles. Columns on one are laminated with birch-bark which is also used to cap another while the third is left as black pvc and the fourth actually constructed from bamboo rather than pvc.
Boxes are about 8" x 11" x 7" deep and the column heights vary from 12" to 28". Motion sensors which trigger the sound are standard home hardware type and in this case the controls were set to allow four seconds of sound playback per trigger. As someone enters the space they will trigger both the frogs and the boxes at various times. On opening night the sound of course approached frenetic chaos but during normal gallery hours the soundscape is clear and discernable.
Physical Description: Viewer faces a 3' x 4' x 2' high apparently solid cement block structure. On top of the structure are two 3-legged suspended cages enclosing speakers pointing to the ceiling. Fibre cords attached to each speaker suspend a pure white coral rock between them. A 3" bamboo needle protrudes from the rock and barely touches water- covered sand contained in a 6" diameter, 1" deep glass petrie dish encased in a woven reed container the same size. Immediately behind and upward from the cement box is a 120 lb. 300 watt per channel MacIntosh Power amplifier with very large blue-light needle meters. This unit is suspended on a neutralised 7' pedestal. The poem PAK, by Imaikalani Kalahele is printed to the right of this assemblage and other copies of the poem are available for taking.
Description of Experience: As one approaches the work they confront a powerful and very low frequency rumbling sound. Sonic images implied were reported as a giant feline creature purring or growling...or a sub-terranean sigh...or even a snoring whale. Regardless and for whatever non-specific reasons, a sense of other-world spirituality and containment was perceived by most people. With the impulse to further observe comes the realization that the sound is emanating from the cement cube. One can feel and even literally see the cement vibrating. If one moves to the side or leans over, the second sensor is activated and a more direct mechanical transduction is witnessed as the small speakers suspended in the wooden cages begin to vibrate and produce an equally drawn out and interrupted hissing. An intermittent rattling also occurs which can be easily traced to a kukui nut placed in the bowl of each speaker. The physical rattling made by the nut bouncing on the speaker cone paper is louder than the electronice sound produced by those speakers. Some participants felt that the nuts wanted to escape yet the cage door was wide open. Resting on the center of the cement box and half way between the two speaker-cage structures a dish of water vibrates with the low frequency sounds. A pure white coral stone is suspended from two cords attached to each of the speaker cones and dangles above the water. A bamboo needle projects downward into the water and touches the sand beneath the surface. If one takes the time to witness this ongoing event it is clear that the bamboo needle literally draws on the sand beneath the water and in time the marks are flattened by the vibrations. The action of continuous marking by a small tenuous force and continuous elimination by a greater and more imposing force becomes apparent.
Technical Description: Two simple movement sensors wait to be triggered. As one approaches the work either the left or right sensor is triggered and one, two, or both corresponding audio tape decks begin to play. One tape contains a mono track 1/6th speed recording of the reading of PAK by its author poet Imaikalani Kalahele. This track is channeled through the 300 watt per channel amplifier (wired for mono output) and is transduced into sound via an 18", 400 watt bass woofer. The woofer is in a cabinet whose projection front is facing the floor and nearly flush though elevated about 3/4" by the corner brackets.
The second tape contains two 1/5 speed recordings of PAK; one in forward and one in reverse. These two separate channels are amplified at about 25 watta each and are sent to the left and right speakers that are housed in wooden cages. The speakers are 8" JBL woofers that were recycled because the foam attaching the speaker cone to its frame had disintegrated (this is a rampant problem in Hawaii apparently due to a unique combination of humidity and fungi that attacks the foam). Consequently, the speakers are capable of reproducing some mid-range frequencies while low-bass input results in hyper-extended piston-movement. In this case the over-excursion serves to bounce the kukui nut around and also move the string suspending the coral stone. The prominent resulting sound is that of the nut hitting the resonant rigid cardboard surface of the speaker cone. The tentative architecture of the structure supporting the speaker is also set into a swaying motion by the intensity of the speaker movement. This motion is compounded by the separate low-bass vibrations of the cement block that the wooden structures stand on.
The tape decks are used 4 x 12-watt auto-reverse car stereos that have been customized with simple electronics for AC operation. The Macintosh power amp was recycled from the UH Art Auditorium. The 18" woofer was purchased used from a guitar shop. The motion sensors are standard security light hardware rewired to control the tape decks
Conceptual Description: This piece questions the phenomena of transduction; the act of transforming energy from one system to another or from one form to another. In this case, the question is what happens when spiritual energy is pushed through various transformations into electro-mechanical energy and then back into spiritual energy. Can an efficient system be invented to do this? If energy can only be transformed rather than created or destroyed, then what has happened to the energy of the ancestral Hawaiian peoples that still permeates the land. If energy tends to travel through a medium then what (or who) is the medium?
In PAK, Imaikalani becomes both a medium through which this energy travels and also a transducer which transforms the energy into vocal sounds which in turn form words (a mode of transferral too complex to address at this time). Through these words, Imail was able to recycle the specific communal energy generatated at the 1992 re-enactment of the 1892 takeover of Queen Lili`okalani's government as well as the other Sovereignty events addressed in the reading of the poem. Curiously, it is my reaction to the incredible power I witnessed as an outsider at these same events that has led to my own role in the transduction of PAK.
Imail grew up in downtown Honolulu. I recorded him at his own space located on the grounds of the Lili`okalani school where he works as a janitor. PAK was chosen from a collection of poems because it was his most recent and also because I, in a strange way had played an infinitesimal role in the events to which the poem refers; the role of an awkward, out-of-place Haouli who no one knew. I had Imail read the poem twice in order to produce cleaner first generation tapes in both forward and reverse versions to work with. The harmonic richness of Imail's voice became more apparent as the tapes were slowed down so I modulated them close to their limit of sub-audial perceptibility. While ordering and compositional decisions were intuitive, phase relationships of the poem's structural elements were left to interact as ever they happened to.
The large cement structure enclosing the low bass rumblings serves as blatant metaphor for Honolulu...a man-made cement structure that carelessly represses the island and the spirits it contains...a structure which covers many ancient burial sites and spiritual places. The tentative bamboo structures on top of the cement suggest the fraility of what we as humans build relative to the powers of nature so visible in the Islands; hurricanes, tsunamis, earth-quakes, and volcanic activity. As a detail but also a punchline, the stylus suspended from the speakers jiggles about in the shallow water covering the sand (both specifically extracted from the most touristed area of Waikiki Beach). As fast as the technologically produced marks can be drawn in the sand, the stronger energy from the forces below erases the marks only to have new marks inscribed...erased...inscribed...erased.
PAK by Imailkalani Kalahele PAK the sound an adze makes when it cracks PAK the sound has made grown men cry PAK we all know that sound PAK an unattended ipu...fallen PAK you know, I hear that sound PAK January 16, 1993 at Bishop Museum PAK held in a circle of our Gods face to face with Ku when we Hawaiians read of our pain PAK then in the morning as thousands of us came to Iolani Palace I heard it louder PAK the sounds of a people rising in revolution as chants from all the islands were sung I heard it again PAK Embraced by the sounds of Hawaiians defending their points of view I heard it even louder PAK I heard it, brada PAK I heard it, tita PAK the spine of the beast crack I heard it
G.R.I.D. (Generic Real-time Interactive Digital)
REALLY DECAYED! 1984 exhibition at Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, NY. I was guest curator/grant writer and a participant. Included Ralph Hocking (ETC), Phil Edelstein (CIE), John Driscoll (CIE), Peer Bode (ETC), and I collaborated with Curt Dunnam, an engineer at the Cornell Cyclotron Center. G.R.I.D = Generic Realtime
Autistic Automoton Armada (in GRID exhibition)
Series of 3 interactive sculptures based on the human condition...wander aimlessly until you bump into an obstacle, then exclaim something indecipherable, then act by moving in an arbitrary direction until you hit another dead end, and do it all again. Fairly complex hand wired "brains" controlled motors and sound in devices constructed from pvc sewer pipe.
Sound sculpture at the Arts Center/Old Forge, NY in conjunction with the photographic exhibit Dawn to Dusk: Dusk to Dawn May 22 - July 5, 1998.