Much of my recent work takes the form of installations in museums, galleries and public spaces. Many of these were created in collaboration with Seven Count, a collective trio whose multidisciplinary activities, bridging music, publication and installation, have their own page.
Stemming from my training and practice in music, my first forays into working in this field were sound installations, several of them collaborations with Joe Mariglio (later my partner in They Shoot Lasers, Don’t They?, whose projects have their own page) which were initially conceived as experimental musical instruments that doubled as spatial enclosures, listening chambers, and interfaces for collective, participatory soundmaking.
After touring substantially with this piece, we were invited to re-imagine it as a permanent installation at the Media Arts Center, San Diego.
The Scrapblaster inaugurated my work with tactile audio transducers. You can think of transducers as more or less like loudspeakers (you amplify sound through them), but the difference is that they are meant to make a solid shake with the sound, whereas regular speakers shake a speaker cone, which in turn shakes the air. Tactile (or haptic) audio transducers must be physically coupled to other objects in order to turn those things into speakers. In the case of the piece above, the metal ceiling of the structure became a speaker. In my subsequent work, I began (inspired largely by David Tudor’s Rainforest) to turn other objects into loudspeakers.
In many of my sculptures created between 2015 and 2019, audio material I have created or gathered (usually including speech) is used to vibrate the objects with the intention of giving these objects their own “voice” (whose timbral quality is a reflection of the physical resonance of the object). Sometimes, as in Talking Gourd (2019), this object’s “voice” also tells a first-person narrative story related to the object. I like how this suggests the possibility of objects testifying for and as themselves — I imagine these sculptures as drawn from the world of animate and effectual objects portrayed by The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and theorized (much later) by the metaphysicians of object-oriented ontology.
I have also blended my interests in nonfiction sound with my sound sculptural work, creating several works from the archive of objects left to me by my grandfather, inventor and eccentric Ben Seltzman. Having conducted a large audio documentary project with Ben for the solo theatrical performance A Mess of Things, I have recordings of Ben talking about many of the things he made, and I have used transducers to vibrate sculptural assemblages of these objects, trying to get the objects talk about their own origins. The installation was featured in an exhibition at the Bennington Museum (VT) in 2017.
From there, I decided to extend the visual and physical emanations of this radiophonic project by collaging the entire libretto of A Mess of Things, along with images and scans from Ben’s archives, into a hardbound, handmade artist’s book (in an edition of 12, now in various institutional and private collections).
The book was laid out and fabricated by Atlan Arceo-Witzl, a wonderful printmaker and artist who I had the pleasure of working with thanks to the support of Skidmore’s Student-Faculty Summer Research grants. For more: A Mess of Things & My other nonfiction sound work.
Of late, most of my installations have been multiscreen video pieces in which abstract video functions as a kind of immersive visual “music,” beginning with Tele Vision Music (2019).
I produced a new video installation while on a residency at Alfred University’s Insititute for Electronic Arts, utilizing Alfred’s unique vintage video synthesizers to try and find a balance of scrolling and meditative stillness.
These installations laid the groundwork and set up the aesthetic coordinates that I have gone on to explore more deeply through my Screenbathing project, which you can all read about here.