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Space Shifter / Rhythm Machine 2.0:
Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, NY, NY

created for the group show:
Sites of Memory: Architecture and Remembering
Curated by William Stover and Stephan Stoyanov

Video documentation:
1 person plays - 2 minutes: here
2 people play - 1.5 minutes: here
Another person plays - 3.5 minutes: here

Curators' Statement for Sites of Memory: Architecture and Remembering
Whether it is the shared experience of the built environment, the psychological and metaphorical aspects of theory and design, or the physical construction itself, the very qualities of architecture have inspired visual artists for centuries.

One thread that many artists have recently investigated is the creation of memory and its relationship to architecture. Cultural or individual memory, both real and imagined, has been explored in many of these works. With their commanding presence and sometimes troubled histories, buildings (and monuments) are mediators of the past and are, arguably, the strongest medium of our collective consciousness. Through built spaces, communities articulate ideologies, create social, race, ethnic and class relationships, construct histories and inform the unconscious. How does the past accumulate in built space and in what ways does this space shape our individual memory?

What of the past is an actual memory and what is a fantasy or our mis-remembering? How has architecture played a role in this process? Is memory the residue of the individual lives and interactions that shape architecture or is it that architecture imposes itself on our memory?

Inspired by the lower level gallery space in which the exhibition is installed, Sites of Memory explores these intersections through an eclectic group of works in all media by a range of internationally respected artists including Bernd and Hila Becher, Nayland Blake, Amelie Chabannes, Rebecca Chamberlain, Eva Davidova, Lieven de Boeck, Terence Gower, Candida HŲfer, Jonah Koppel, Dimitri Kozyrev, Rita McBride, Caoimhghin O'Fraithile, Thomas Ruff, Samuil Stoyanov, Darren Wardle, Jill Weber, and Rachel Whiteread. Sculptor Dave Eppley and sound artist Nina Waisman have created site-specific installations in response to the architecture and history of the building in which the gallery is located. The exhibition is curated by William Stover in collaboration with Stephan Stoyanov.

The exhibition also showcases MLAB (Mobile Literacy Arts Bus), a 1984 recreational vehicle that was transformed into a space for alternative educational and cultural programming by the Social Sculpture class at Syracuse University, taught and founded by artist Marion Wilson. Comprised of art & architecture students, the class created a mobile classroom, digital photo lab, recording studio, gallery space, and community center. MLAB has been temporarily installed in front of the gallery and serves as an extension of the exhibition. MLAB embodies the concept of liminality: dissolving boundaries between what was (history) and what is possible (present/future).
- William Stover and Stephan Stoyanov

Description of Space Shifter / Rhythm Machine:
Created for the "Sites of Memory" show in the basement of Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, this piece was inspired in part by passages from Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space: "it is possible, almost without commentary, to oppose the rationality of the roof to the irrationality of the cellar". The cellar is "first and foremost the dark entity of the house, the one that partakes of subterranean forces. When we dream there, we are in harmony with the irrationality of the depths"

The piece presents the visitor with a circular portal "drawn" on a wall, using 12 small proximity sensors to sketch this wheel-like portal's outlines. This portal is an interactive sound interface - when visitors place any part of their body in front of the sensors, they will trigger sound. Moving towards or away from the sensors changes varying qualities of the sound - increasing or decreasing speed, pitch, volume, etc. So the psychological and referential qualities of the sonic space (coloring the built space that houses the piece), will shift with a visitorís conscious and unconscious movements.

There are families of sounds clustered together in discrete sections of the portal/wheel. The bottom section calls up concrete sounds one might actually hear in a basement - water dripping, doors creaking, mice/cats/bugs/etc. The right-hand section is a "kids" zone, w/sounds children and their sitters/watchers might make while passing time in a basement. The left-hand side is the "adult" zone. The top area is a "machine" zone.

The abstract qualities of these sounds are alterable by the viewer's gestures. A sound might be "played' in a quiet, distanced tone, or, by moving towards a sensor, this same sound can be increased in volume, speed or pitch to induce discomfort or anxiety. A single sound can shape-shift easily through simple adjustments of speed or volume. A quick but quiet intake of breath might express delight; repeating that sound quickly and loudly might suggest a workout, a sexual encounter or terror. A tapping sound might, at one rhythm or volume, evoke a delicate attempt to get attention, but playing it at a faster rhythm and higher volume might suggest an aggressive attack.

There are databases of sounds triggered at each sensor, always shifting between different sounds within a family of related gestures. Triggering multiple sensors at once might call to mind a children's play-space, a lover's rendezvous, a prison/torture room, a workspace, a sweat-shop... And while the sounds are clustered geographically into families of sounds, as described above, the visitor to the piece might reach her hands about the circular portal and re-mix sound of different sonic clusters.

So between these shifting databases, the visitorís decision to play different sensors together, and the visitors varying proximity changing pitch/speed/etc, the sound-space is always different and always composed in collaborations between the visitor and the piece. In this way a selection of "objective" sounds can shape-shift and be re-mixed into sonic narratives that the visitor composes by exploring the piece.

The piece is sized so the average adult can just reach its edges with hands outstretched - encouraging a physical relationship/exploration of the circular portal. Sounds can be altered by moving hands/body towards/away from the sensors in the zone between 2" and 12" in front of each sensor - for most sounds you will hear a clear shift in sonic qualities. In some versions of this installation, 2 or more additional sensors are hung out in the space, to respond to people moving naturally through the space in front of the piece, and to alert them to the sonic potential of exploring the space.