Archival Excerpt 1
from “The Radio” Show: Chapter 2
Chapter title: Representation
The conception of this work came from a need to satisfy my inclusion in the Bachelor of Fine Arts 2nd year gallery show at the end of the academic year. The space allotted to the 2nd year students was the D300 gallery located within the CalArts main building. The gallery, while being one of the larger on campus, presented what appeared would be a complication as the number of 2nd year students was nearly twenty-five, many planning to show more than one piece, and each desiring equally proportionate wall space, a request that would have meant that each artist would have received roughly 4 feet horizontally, due to the fact that initially no one had a desire to use any floor space. I took this as the primary negotiation that needed immediate attention in relation to the work I would be considering for my contribution to the space.
I decided that to provide more distance between works on the wall, and more space for those using it, would help to ease the impacted situation. I would develop something for the floor space——to fill the room more thoroughly so that upon entering the gallery the eye would be required to take in a multitude of spatial planes. This would also enact a coming to physical awareness of the space, in moving through it and around objects that would bring a type of containment to the gallery, something that work on the walls would not thoroughly do alone. This was a necessity in deciding and considering the floor as an option. Utilizing the floor simultaneously expanded the space and contained it in opening the distance between wall works to lessen a cramped feeling and likewise provided an introduction through a fluctuation in a visual assessment of the show as a whole.
Prior to this, I had a notion to show, by some form, the constant shift of the gallery spaces within CalArts. The particular possibilities of this survey show enabled me the chance to unfold this concept as the basis of the work.
The galleries of CalArts consist of 8 spaces, 7 of which the School of Art maintains and the other which is a student run space. The length of a show in a gallery is a timeframe of one week to accommodate the number of mfa thesis presentations, solo shows from upper level undergrads, and various other student exhibitions on the calendar established early on in the year. This quick turnaround determines that the amount of work up in a given month is in some 36 different shows. The concept, which I elaborated on, was to reinstall a previous show in some way so that not only would the rapid exchange of shows be addressed within a given gallery space, but also allow for a provisional chance to be given for a previously installed work to visit the space a second time in a different light, after a time in which it had gone through a shift, becoming something of a memory of itself.
The way in which I was able to realize this idea was through turning to another ongoing project I was collaborating on. The "Radio" Show was a weekly radio program that was organized and run by Nattan Hollander and myself on the CalArts radio station. The portion of "The Radio" Show which turned into the content of this project came from the second program entitled "Representation" in which the entirety of the show consisted of a phone conversation between Nattan, located in the on-campus galleries, and myself, in the radio station located on a separate floor of the building. The conversation consisted of questions and answers as to the arrangement of the galleries, the work within them, and anything else pertinent to the shows up during that week. To prepare myself for the broadcast I made sure that prior to the conversation I would restrain myself from viewing the work on display so that my mind held no perception of what the contents of the conversation would consist in, enabling me to ask questions which would direct me as closely to the work as possible without seeing beyond mental images I was constructing with Nattan's responses and observations. As I was already familiar with the gallery spaces in size and shape, the mental images were not coming from a completely blind place, something that provided Nattan some room in his assessments of layout and measurement of the rooms.
The exhibition open at the time in the D300 gallery was the graduate thesis exhibition by Masters student Nikhil Murthy. The show was entitled "Welcome to Silicon Valley". A brief description of the show can be described as an installation consisting of two works. Each work consisted of two and three television monitors, the two on a table and the three nearer to floor level. Spaced apart in the room, these monitors left a great deal of void open area, which the glow from the screens softly lit. The contents of the video work playing had to do with (1) India in relation to U.S. economy by way of shopping malls and the computer industry and (2) the artist being suspected and interrogated by the FBI for suspicious acts of videography through Homeland Security jurisdiction.
The content of "Welcome to Silicon Valley", while not being intentionally chosen as an example for the premise of the radio broadcast, became an interesting example of what Nattan and I set out to explore as a result of the minimal qualities of the exhibition, something which provided a greater amount of time to question in specificity to the format in relation to the content in the video work. The conversation in the gallery lasted 45 minutes and 30 seconds and was ended when I felt that I had received a sufficient mental image from Nattan's description and he had addressed all components.
Upon finding out which gallery space the group show would take place in, nearly a month later, I went to the archived recording I had of that radio broadcast and extracted the excerpt from Nikhil's show in the D300 gallery. At the time of the broadcast, the component, which Nattan had purchased to allow in studio phone conversations, created a problem in both the live broadcast and recording of it——The feed coming in from outside, through Nattan's cell phone, was quite low in volume, so low that both I and any listeners would have had trouble hearing him. The singular option at the time was to turn up the master volume, which was broadcast out, to the maximum decibel level to enable Nattan to be heard at all. The increase in volume resulted in adding two levels of distortion to the conversation, (1) as initially my voice in studio was going out clearly with the original decibel, the maximizing of the master volume in turn brought my voice up to a high amplitude, much greater than Nattan's on the other end of the phone and (2) the increase also led to a large amount of white noise and static to glaze the entire conversation with crackling foreground noise. To negotiate these aspects upon revisiting the archived broadcast, I imported the excerpt into a sound editor and proceeded to "clean" it. The first step I introduced was an equalization of the gradient levels of sound. The command involved selecting what I desired to be the maximum level and compressing the rest to that constraint, a command, which I hoped would begin to drop my voice plateau and raise Nattan's to a middle ground.
The impact of the applied equalization resulted in what sounded like an ethereal underlay to the excerpt--In bringing the two voices to a common level the command also brought the layer of foregrounded white noise and static to a revolving hum which had seeped into the conversation and became embedded in it. This first step surprised and intrigued me so much that I decided to stop the editing at that point. The impact of the hum and the inextricable qualities it lent to the conversation seemed to relate, in a way, directly to the notice of a "shift" in the weekly shifts in the gallery spaces. This blurring led to an audio track which sounded displaced, relating to a previous show in the space through a verbalization of the formal layout and content of the work in "Welcome to Silicon Valley", but a verbalization that was at certain points a great struggle to decipher because of the roam of the hum. Additively, the track of sound I had attempted to "clean" resulted in a smudging of sorts in relation to the origin of the audio, a live broadcast sent into an opened space.
The work, materially, ended up as a set of headphones and a compact disc player sitting in the seat groove of a standard classroom type plastic-mold chair found inside the building. The disc player had a power cord connected to it, running out of it, and under the chair, entering a coil caused by the excess length of the cord, and following on to an outlet found right of the chair in the wall. The chair sat roughly 7 ft from that wall on its right and 20 ft back from the gallery entrance. There was roughly 9 ft between the chair and the back wall. The positioning was decided through the location of where Nikhil's work had sat in the space as I wanted the chair to be in a position in which his video works could materialize or be remembered by past or new visitors of the gallery in the original locations apart and a part from the location of the chair.
The chair was chosen to dually act as a place to sit down in the gallery while listening to the audio excerpt and as a replacement for a pedestal or wall mount, which a compact disc player might sit on top of in a gallery or museum context. This choice was made to have as little unneeded impact structurally as possible to the work as it seemed unnecessary to introduce such a rigid element that would be freestanding in the space. The use of the chair in place of the pedestal was also made so that the large amount of sterility in the work would be lessened by the personal engagement in picking the disc player up, sitting down in the chair, and perhaps resting the device on one's lap while listening as there was no other place to set it once one had sat down. This provided an added relation for the listener with his or her own personal electronics and provided encouragement to adjust the volume or restart the audio track from the beginning if so desired. There was an initial idea to project the sound so that it would have filled the space, but in respect to the other participants in the show the headphones provided an added personalizing in the accession process of the work.
The impact of the chair to the space addressed the concerns I had had about the layout of the show and the inclusion of floor work to bring a level of cohesion and visual gradation to the area. The height of the chair did not impede on the axis to work on the walls around it nor did it sit so low that a visitor might stumble into it accidentally. I chose to leave the power cord running from under the chair to the wall exposed so as to bring another component for the visitor in cognizing an awareness of the spatial arrangement of the gallery. This also brought a formal connection of the floor work to that on the walls in requiring an outlet to serve as the source for my work to run continually, aligned to the confinement the gallery space offers.
The work not only provided the possibility of a second glimpse of "Welcome to Silicon Valley" in the space, but also required an active and attentive imagination to enable a recreation of its arrangement to "manifest". This was challenged by the works that were a part of the group show already installed in the space, already in the visual plane of the visitor listening to the conversation through headphones. The hum that came in the editing process became an accepted integral component to the project as it enabled a derivation from the live broadcast itself on the radio from what was heard in the gallery, given as a way to jog a memory and recognize a shift.