Tuesday, September 27, 2016

27,000- The Music Box at USF Contemporary Art Museum

From June 6th - July 23rd 2016 I happily participated in the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum's exhibition  Amplified: Reverberations from The Music Box which asked participating artists to react to New Orleans Airlift project The Music Box- Tampa. I drove from Miami to see the second performance on March 26th and instantly knew I needed to build a sculpture for the exhibit.

Sketch book drawing made the evening of March 26th, 2016 during the Music Box performance.
Bringing Airlift to Tampa was curator Sarah Howard's vision and the exhibition that followed simply flowed like a river from the site specific to the galleries of USF CAM. This kind of activity was no surprise to those who know Sarah, who has championed public art and intervention through recent years in Tampa (Bringing Rebar's Parking Day Project to Tampa as well).
I visited the site as the Music Box was being built and had a very nice tour with Devon Brady which kickstarted my ideas in regards to the USF CAM exhibition, the site and the environs.

Above-Music Box performance March 26th, 2016 Tampa Fl. with all major architectural musical instruments in view- from left to right- The Lunar Tool Shed. The Syphonium, The Pitch Bow House and in the foreground burms equipped with speakers and also functioning as seating. The artists responsible for building these architectural and musical elements are- Tory Tepp (Lunar Tool Shed), Janine Awai/Devon Brady/Michael Lemieux (Syphonium) and Ranjit Bhatnagar/Alyssa Dennis (Pitch Bow House)
An interesting historical side note, which is documented in the pamphlet documenting the project, is that the Syphonium appeared in a different form earlier as part of an Experimental Skeleton, Inc. collaboration with the BONK Festival of New Music. This earlier version of the Syphonium appeared in a performance in Tampa and Miami (I will attempt to find the documentation in the ES, Inc. archives and post at a later date as an amendment to this post)
Photo by Will Lytch
My contribution to the USF CAM exhibition was greatly influenced by the location of the Music Box installation- on the bank of Hillsborough River. The great oaks and the hanging spanish moss gives one the feeling of something primordial, of great age and of mystery. I thought there should be a monument there, superimposed as if some unknown culture left a puzzling reminder of their presence. I folded this over my current interest in the television program that I watched as a kid- Krofft Entertainment's "The Land of the Lost". Combining the form of an obelisk with the memory of one of the "pylons" from the television program (the pylons were structures that contained a table full of crystals. The crystals would change the exterior environment of "the land of the lost" when manipulated) I made an obelisk shaped optical theremin which could be played by moving the cast crystals around on a bed of silicone impregnated sand. A proper symbolic hybrid (the obelisk of the Egyptians represented a solidified ray of sunlight and the pylon being an agent of change) I called the work 27,000 which is the number of years that the Hillsborough River has been flowing from the mouth of Green Swamp according to geological records. The sculpture is accompanied by four drawings which document the ideas that formulated 27,000 as well as other possible works inspired by The Music Box.
View of 27,000 with drawings in background.
27,000- Upcycled styrofoam, cement, cast plastic and electronics. Photo by Will Lytch

Cast crystals in bed of silicone impregnated sand. Moving the crystals around changes the amount of light received by the optical theremin circuit below the table, changing the pitch of the instrument. Photo by Will Lytch