Lookout Tower I

Wooden platform, headphones with sound, Max/MSP live signal processing, wooden chair, table, lamp, persian carpet, cinderblocks, newspaper, person. Installed in the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts under the guidance of Jennifer Bornstein, December 2016.

Although Lookout Tower 1 was theoretically incepted as a sound work for a crowded room and physically exists as a interactive sculpture, it truly proposes our interaction with the landscape––in this case the people in the gallery and their movement around the space––as the true art.

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The way people interact with the world around them never ceases to fascinate me, especially in a space created and curated with such intention around this very notion of the direct and indirect observation that art necessarily highlights. Watching people orient themselves in such a space is truly captivating, among all the noise and clatter, among the crowds and flashing lights of a gallery opening, students eager to show their projects, multi-channel projections, found-material sculptures, films, viewers engaged in the beholding of art, striving to seem ‘cultured,’ nodding appreciatively at reels of found-footage projected against blackboards. Often—and I find this is the case with most of life as well—people seem unable to zoom out and observe the bigger picture, more beautiful and complicated, while ensnared in the fray. Thus, I decided that what I want to do with my sound installation, just as Hollis Frampton gets people to notice light falling on a lemon, is to invoke the same forced perception that film enables but towards the real, physical world around the viewer—to force a person to ‘zoom out’ and observe the way people interact with the built environment around them—the landscape.

 

Indeed, the landscape of the art gallery is a highly unique and specialized one. When one first thinks about a gallery as a landscape, one might envision a large room with people aimlessly wandering from artwork to artwork, flitting like lost moths to whatever light catches their eye. The gallery, however, is often actually more like an airport; it is curated to a fine level for the efficient flow of people through the space. When setting up the gallery, for example, I walked around the space with Jennifer Bornstein talking about the precise positioning of all of the works. We imagine ourselves to be visitors: what do we notice first, where do we gravitate, what paths do we take to enter, to exit? In this way, we ensure that the space is finely tuned, optimized for the perfect order, the perfect flow, the perfect motion of entrances and exits, stops and starts. And, if we have done our job correctly, all of this choreography happens without the visitor noticing at all. Much like a great director makes it appear as if you are finding meaning in the film instead of the film prescribing a set of beliefs onto you, so too the curator with the gallery landscape.

 

Special Thanks to Jennifer Bornstein, Hans Tutschku, John Stilgoe, and the CCVA 

© 2019 Austin Weber