Much sound art is fixed for its presentation in a gallery, but that doesn’t mean improvisation isn’t occasionally called for. Last Saturday, December 1, was the closing reception for David Kwan‘s Emergence exhibit at Mission 17 in San Francisco (mission17.org). I dropped by to take in the two works in that dark room one last time (mentioned here previously twice: an initial review, disquiet.com; and a subsequent correspondence with Kwan, disquiet.com).
Something seemed different about “Terminus” (2007), shown below. The work consists of five screens. Four small ones show moving images of environmental landscapes, and a large one shows overlapped projections of all four at once. An audio track is recognizable as field recordings. What had changed since my previous visit was that two of the four small screens had died and been replaced by larger CRTs, as seen below. Though the change could have been distracting, the new variety of sizes and formats of monitors worked, as it emphasized differences between the single-channel images and made more of the room as a space to be navigated. (It also brought to mind the Douglas Gordon exhibit currently at SFMOMA: a room full of simultaneous projections on myriad screens — more in a November 24, 2007, disquiet.com entry.)
Directly above is a somewhat blurry image that shows how the quartet of images appeared simultaneously on one large screen. (At left in the image is the wisely installed dark curtain that blocked light from the gallery’s main entrance.)
Kwan was at the reception, and we had a chance to talk about “Terminus.” He graciously explained a few things. While the images are untreated, the audio is processed: slowed down and run through two filters. Each screen shows images from a DVD, and each DVD consists of 10 chapters that play at random. It takes about an hour to witness all the segments, but of course far longer to take in all the possible combinations. The work had shown previously this year at the gallery Jack Straw in Seattle from February 9 through April 20 (jackstraw.org), so Kwan wasn’t entirely surprised that two of the screens had finally given up the ghost.