MILLIE CHEN & EVELYN VON MICHALOFSKI - Artists' Statement
The works Damping Chamber and Buzz Hum engage tactile materiality in order to trigger immaterial sonic vibrations. Substances grounded with corporeal weightiron, blood, felt, boneare shaped into forms that are simultaneously familiar and exaggerated, becoming conduits for fleeting sensations. The works explore the potential for permeation among varying materials and dimensions and between work and audience. The relationship between seeing and hearing is shifted back and forth from one sense to another, generating a perceptual trance. Options for viewing are presented in each of the works. The act of looking at an object disengages one from listening; the act of listening to an object disengages one from viewing; the act of looking at an object conjures the act of listening.
The impetus for Damping Chamber emerged from the materiality of felt and from Chen and Von Michalofski's history of collaboration. The structural capacity of felt in terms of its potent absorption and saturation characteristics is approached metaphorically through the vibration of sound and water, both being elements that are readily absorbed. The dampened space that is created by a chamber insulated with felt is filled with illusion through the sound of two synchronized swimmers moving through a difficult routine. Outside the chamber are a pair of swimsuits, presumably worn by the swimmers; these are made out of the same heavy, dark blue, wool felt that lines the interior of the chamber. In the absence of bodies, the soaked suits drip dark blue water into catch basins below.
Each element of the Damping Chamber installation conveys a vague sense of claustrophobia. A fine tension is set in motion between labors of absence, trust, breathing and trauma. Damping Chamber stems from the artists's ongoing inquiry into the collaborative process and their ideals for working together through synchronicity and movement. Their previous piece produced horizontal movement through walking back and forth across the earth; here, they chart vertical movement by swimming up and down through the water. These mundane choreographies sustain their negotiations with the everyday by opening up disturbing and inspiring dream states.
This sound sculpture presents a self-enclosed circulatory system that cycles breath into instrumental sound via a convoluted structure "worn" by the viewer. The structure is essentially a sound systemit can be perceived as an elaborate musical instrument or a breathing device, both of which function as extensions of the body. The structure sprouts from a found source, a pair of deer antlers, positioned above the viewer's crown. Through two cast iron music horn forms, positioned at ear and mouth level, breath enters and exits the structure. The bells of the horns are orifices that open the structure up to the viewer/listener. The sound is seemingly carried away and back again through convoluted antler extensions (carved out of wood and coated with animal blood). As the breath exits the structure, human voice turns into a wind instrument emission that sounds like the call of an animal. The effect is that of sound continually circulating throughout the sculptural structure, while the body of the listener is now implicated as part of the structure. Juxtapositions are made between the visceral, weighty material of blood and that of iron, a Ferro-magnetic compound often depleted in the blood of menstruating women. Iron is close to the body in odor and chemistry. It is a resilient yet rebellious metal as it contains in a relatively high degree the element of decay, in the ever-present encroachment of rust.
The act of reading conjures the act of listening by evoking sound. Thirty-eight speaker box forms arranged along the wall in a horizontal sequence draw the viewer/listener in close, in anticipation of hearing actual sound emissions. As the listener becomes viewer a hand-embroidered text emerges from the surface of thick, dark sound-dampened felt. The text consists of thirty-eight onomatopoeic words. The viewer then becomes a source for sound as, moving across the thirty-eight rhythmically-sequenced words, an irresistible action occurs: vocalization.