Sonic installation entertains and provokes
RELEASED: Feb. 2, 2006
DANVILLE, KYPassersby entering and leaving various Centre College locales during CentreTerm—the College's unique three-week winter term—walked through a portable art installation created by nine freshmen in "The Open Studio: Investigating Contemporary Art Practices," a class taught by artist Zoe Ann Strecker.
The installation, which was erected in Crounse Hall, Sutcliffe Hall, and in front of the Cowan Dining Commons, consisted of an array of boomboxes mounted on pedestals, each of which played a different student's voice posing a series of if questions about the future.
If time could be manipulated
The reactions were as varied as the questions. Some were intrigued by the installation, others were confused, put off, or frightened. "Are they all on different stations?" wondered one student, apparently mistaking the boomboxes for radios. "What was that? It scared the **** out of me!" was another overheard comment. A third stood in the center of the installation, listening with head cocked. After a few moments he mumbled, "I'm freaked out" and wandered off.
"As a teaching tool," says Strecker, the installation "was designed to help the students in their investigations of contemporary artists. They'll gain a bit of insight into the many complex decisions required to make any work of art."
The portability of the artwork was a key aspect of the project, adds Strecker. "By repeatedly installing the artwork, the students were able to experience how site, audience, and specifics of installation affect if not actually form the meaning of the work. Also, much of the contemporary art we studied did not employ traditional art media, so it was interesting for them to make something in 'sound' or 'voice.' As a work of art in itself, it was fascinating to hear nine 18 year-olds consider the future. The fact that their questions and thoughts physically surround the beholder of the work is engaging in a way that reading their statements or hearing them one at a time is not. I found the piece moving and a bit disturbing and, oddly, humorous."
Strecker says she is thrilled by the receptiveness of her students to their project. "The students are all so excited," she says. "They even take a proprietary attitude to the project. When they're watching people walk past the installation they wonder 'Why aren't people stopping?'"
In addition to creating art, the class had a chance to observe the work of artists on their one-day excursion to Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center, or CAC. One artist they had studied was Tony Oursler, a sculptor/video artist. Another was photographer Taryn Simon, whose photographic exhibit—of people wrongly convicted because of mistaken identification either during law enforcement line-ups or via photographs—was a vivid illustration of photography's blurring truth and fiction, as well as the relationship between art and ethics.
After the seriousness of those exhibits, says Strecker, "We found some playful relief in the CAC’s 'UnMuseum' on the top floor where interactive exhibits, mainly designed for kids, gave us a chance to blow off some steam. We all got inside SIMPARCH’s 'Rockin Trailer' and had a bonding experience as we rocked the vehicle so hard that we slammed ourselves into its padded walls. Then we cut, glued, drew, pasted and even drew on ourselves in the art project area designed by Andrea Zittel, another contemporary artist whom we studied in some depth. We left our artworks behind for posterity and traveled home to Centre in happy spirits."Strecker's past work includes large-scale public sculptures located at sites across the United States. She is a past recipient of the Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant, and the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. Her exhibit at the Lexington Arts Center was profiled in an earlier article on the Centre Web site.
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