title: reflections of a thousand faces
type: installation & performance
instructor: Gediminas Urbonas
Reflections of a Thousand Faces is a site-specific, 12-channel, generative sound installation in a stairwell in the Wiesner Building at MIT.
For me this was first time working with multi-channel sound in both performance and installation settings. For this particular project, site-specificity was crucial in the understanding and experience of the 12-channel installation that sourced sounds from the stairwell. In order for the focus to be on the content, I designed the speaker mounts and wiring system to be as minimal as possible. Running the wire along the railings also helped ensure building occupants could egress without difficulty in the event of an emergency.
It’s more important to me to create a system or an environment where people can experience the sounds for themselves, without me adding any sort of meaning system beforehand. This is why I chose to invite users to walk the space while I performed, using the space as an instrument. The element of chance is also important, as the installation kept generating new sounds for a week. My work often explores space and place and its relation to the content being produced from and within it. Also, it is of interest to challenge traditional modes of how one receives a work of art. The fact that the stairwell is a public and liminal space impacted the generative nature of the sounds, making it a unique and ever-changing experience for anyone passing through.
Sound, by its very nature, is simultaneously now and always becoming. According to Salomé Voegelin, the listening experience engages us with life’s contingency as a dynamic process of embodiment. At a place like MIT, often facilitated by the incessant drive towards what lies beyond, there exists a confrontation with the present moment and the promise of the future. Further, this focus on the persistence of tradition concerning the production of knowledge occurs in spaces that are supported by complex building systems. Hidden away and inaccessible, these intricate sounding spaces employ various technologies that enable our architectural experience to exist as we know it.
The differences of now and then, here and there, and the beyond implies temporal movement, passage, and a notion of progress. Thus, the resonant space of a stairwell is explored, evoking ideas of evacuation, journey, and transition. This liminality refers to what Marc Augé called, a non-space. These non-spaces are not concerned with identity, and are void of relational and historical notions of definition. As such, the spectator-traveler experiences a disorientation that occurs throughout the journey. Reflections of a Thousand Faces is a multi-channel sound work that uses installation to probe a means of possible spatial reorientation. A tension occurs, and the suspension of time is a momentary detour that relocates a new experience, expands present circumstances of the space, and attempts to create a deeper relationship between listeners and their environment.