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Matthew J. Sage : Intermedia Worklog
a poorly maintained catalog of various works past to present

CHOIR: collaboration with Pope.L at THE WHITNEY

(image via THE WHITNEY)

Pope.L is an artist whose work explores race, identity, class, performance, text, and everything in between those aforementioned containers. On CHOIR he created an installation at The Whitney; a public fountain holding nearly 1,000 gallons of water that filled and drained through copper pipes and a water fountain. I was asked to collaborate with Pope.L on this installation by creating sound design and microphone implementation to amplify the auditory elements of this installation. Using foley techniques, cardioid and contact microphones, pop filters, archival sound sources, and three channel audio, I created an enveloping soundscape to accompany this physical installation. In addition to the installation in the gallery space, sound design was implemented in the lobby of The Whitney, a playful and equally dreadful dripping sound that appears and disappears in intervals, to signal the presence of Pope.L's works in the museum.

From the New York Times: At the Whitney, his room-size “Choir” features an industrial water tank installed in a darkened space and eerie sound elements created by contact microphones placed near the pipes leading to the tank. Pope.L does this to show how even “neutral” or natural elements like water get embroiled in social and political battles, from Jim Crow laws that prohibited African-Americans from using certain water fountains to the recent water-contamination crisis in Flint, Mich.

From an essay by Christopher Lew, curator at the Whitney: Physically, Choir is centered on an absence. After walking through a corridor formed by black mesh fabric and turning a corner, the viewer is hit with a bright light, illuminating from behind a milky white 1,000-gallon tank that sits high on a platform. The tank is weighty and marred by use, as much a void as a container. Haloed by the gallery lights, it achieves a certain monumentality. Directly above the tank, an old drinking fountain is suspended upside down from the ceiling. The fountain gushes at a volume and rate that surpasses normal capacity, sending water straight down into the mouth of the tank below. As if it could fill—or overfill—the tank, the intensity of the flow is matched by the amplified sound of the cascade. It reverberates loudly within the gallery and into the Whitney’s lobby just beyond the doors. Buried in the sonic maelstrom are sounds of singing and shouting, voices that at first are indistinguishable from the rush of water but later grow in presence and volume. Then, as quickly as it began, the fountain stops, letting the water lap the sides of the tank, the waves visible through the semitranslucent plastic. A moment later, a pump kicks on—its mechanic whir also picked up by the microphones installed in the gallery—and the water drains from the tank through a network of copper pipes that run throughout the space. The cycle repeats like a delirious ritual revolving around the tank; there is a constant movement and flow, an alternating presence and absence of abundance. The tank is a void that is filled with a roar, only to be pumped out and replenished again in a Sisyphean act—not unlike Lucy’s futile attempt to stave off the flow of candies.

More information on this installation here.

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