What are we if not defined by our environment?
This question has captivated generations, from the Indigenous Australians to modern day sound artist Allard van Hoorn. In 'The Songlines', the wandering English writer Bruce Chatwin studied the connection between Aboriginal song and nomadic travel. In the story, he learns that language started as a song, and that in a sacred era the aboriginals sang their land into existence. The songlines, or dreaming tracks, map space through music, which is based on the topography of the land. In other words, if you know the song, you can create a map of the region. All it takes is a strong voice and a willingness to wander through the Outback.
A recent exhibition at Storefront for Art and Architecture is shifting the connection between song and space from the nomadic to the urban. The exhibition entitled '007_Urban_Songline' will feature artist Allard Van Hoorn turning the gallery into an interactive instrument. The responsive sound piece will enable visitors to actually play the building by hitting a series of taut strings attached to the gallery walls.
The gallery describes the mechanics of the installation:
Storefront's facade contains 12 panels that pivot vertically or horizontally to open the entire length of the gallery directly onto the street. When a panel of the facade moves, the strings will physically activate the totality of the facade and acoustically transform the space of the gallery making the different spatial transformations audible for visitors. Visitors will become performers and will be encouraged to manipulate the installation as they transcend the space by moving the panels of the façade and stretching and playing the fields of strings with their bodies, thus constructing and transforming the acoustic and visual topography of Storefront.
Participants receive directions on how to play the gallery. An excerpt of the instructions is below:
Knock on all facades, stone, metal, glass, plastic and ceramic surfaces; feel the depth and hollowness of this city. Listen.
Try to move anything that might move; feel the weight. Listen.
Touch, pull, scratch, hit (lovingly) anything that might sound. Listen.
Van Hoorn's Songlines for the modern age play with the relationship between sound, song, maps, space, travel, topography and architecture. The installation will address a morphology that is harmonic, even nomadic.
The exhibition will run until February 18, 2012.