Technique: piano wire, speakers, piezo microphones, amplifiers
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with
the Zürich Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology
as part of the group exhibition "Milieux Sonores"
San Francisco, California
September 11–November 19
"Perimeter Gray" takes it name from the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), which has an exhibition space in the busy Taylor Street, just north of Market Street in San Francisco. The group show "Mileux Sonores," for which I originally developed "Perimeter Walcheturm," was taken to the GAFFTA space and for this I was asked to re-work "Perimeter Walcheturm."
I decided to install the piece under the marquee in front of the GAFFTA space, which in its former incarnation served as porno cinema. Unlike the space in front of the Kunstraum Walcheturm where "Perimeter Walcheturm" was shown, the Taylor Street is normally quite loud, with a heavy flow of traffic most weekdays from the early morning till the early evening. This block of Taylor street is also at the tail end of a particularly intense stretch of transient hotels, bars and liquor stores, with the requisite foot traffic to match. To make matters more complicated (as if they weren't already difficult enough) people lived in an apartment over the GAFFTA space with their window opening onto the backside of the marquee.
Instead of running long lines of piano wire across the front of the space, as I did with "Perimeter Walcheturm," I decided to attach two piezo microphones via loops of piano wire to the upper edges of the marquee, around ten meters in height from the sidewalk. I was thus able to capture much of the environment's sounds and have the flow of traffic act as kind of envelope follower to a steady, yet at times barely perceptible, stream of feedback being generated by the proximity of the piezo microphones to the eight speakers hanging from the underside of the marquee. When the level of traffic rose, or any prolonged louder sounds in the immediate area occurred, the level of feedback would rise accordingly.
As in "Perimeter Walcheturm," "Perimeter Gray" cast a kind of sonic shadow back across the facade of the building, creating an analog body of sound and reference to the sound environment of the Taylor Street. The gentle ebb and flow of the feedback issuing from the speakers mirrored this and created an outline to this shadow, at times cloaking it in rising swells threatening a screeching overload, at other times fairly vanishing.
"Perimeter Gray" demands a certain patience from the installation's visitors. It sometimes takes a good deal of time before the work manifests itself, seeming perhaps at first to not be working at all. I wanted the work to co-exist with the indigenous environment, not to encroach upon it, dominate it, but to reflect on it. And beyond this, I want the installation visitor themselves to reflect on this environment, taking the time to stop and experience it.