vascellum 1

100 drawings
ink on paper
each 3" x 5"

vascellum was first conceived for the gallery at anomalous records in seattle. the piece consisted of 100 small drawings in black ink on index cards, each a drawing of the same audio speaker, that had belonged to my father. the size and number of drawings was mimic’d the size of a window in the space, suggesting an alternative to looking outside, towards listening inside. this was the first vascellum work.

in 2003, i was considering to make an edition related to the first and second versions of the piece towards making an edition, and at the time did a lengthy interview with dan st. claire about the history of the work:

could you describe the installation version of vascellum?

the physical installation was somewhat minimal, all relating in some ways to the image of an audio speaker (in this case also an audio speaker that belonged to my father – which was very important in terms of the object i was using as opposed to simply the ‘idea of a speaker’ which was also important). there were 100 small ink drawings on index cards – on each card a simple black ink image done while looking at the speaker. all 100 cards pinned to the wall were the same size as the only window in the space. there were also two very small wooden and beeswax sculptures in the space, one on a small block of wood facing up from the floor and one hanging from the ceiling facing a small round mirror. when one entered the space the work was of course visible, but the details and actualities had to be met with closer contact to discover that they were not just stuff left in the space… they had to be noticed in a similar way that quiet sounds must be listened to and not just heard…

what was the space like?

formally the space was a room in an old warehouse that with beams and a funky wood floor and one window, a kind of pathetic gallery – but one filled with much character. in terms of the social space it was a small gallery in a building that also housed a record store and mail order distribution business – all geared towards experimental music and sound.

who came?

mainly sound geeks – i don’t really think ‘regular folks’ wandered into anomolous much – although the cross section of sound geeks in seattle is particularly vast in terms of experimental music being quite a broad thing.

did you get any feedback?

i was really only there for two days to install and perform at the opening, so feedback was minimal. for the book version it seems a lot of people liked the simplicity of the piece and how it allowed the viewer/listener to participate in the work. i am sure other people didn’t think so much of it, but then  – i didn’t get any hate mail :-)

any influences for this particular piece?

this is the text that was displayed on the wall of the space:

“the following texts are excerpts from my work diary. they are presented here as access to some of the ideas i am working with. they are not written in stone, nor are they explanations of the work. they are simply an introduction to my own thought process and ways of working:

1/3/97…i am interested in the object that is used to transmit sound – rendered mute upon a page. i keep thinking about a still quiet room filled with 100 images of a speaker – a wall of silent sound. by looking at an object on the wall, one’s concentration leads one to become so still that one begins to actually hear (or audibly notice) the surrounding space – in this case the speakers (actually the representation of speakers) are still acting as a gateway or transmitter of sounds.

1/15/97…the work is all centered around the shape of an audio speaker. i have wanted to use this shape for a long time. for aesthetic reasons, for metaphoric connotations in terms of the speaker as a vessel and object of transference, and for the relationship of a silent sound carrier to sound itself and the activity of listening… the black ink circles do not represent the speaker, but are a record of the activity of looking into the thing’s essence and not really trying to capture the object (for perhaps that is an impossibility); but rather to capture the activity of seeking it… how a record of the process of drawing and looking also became about listening. drawing the same object 100 times became a very silent and focused activity. i found myself responding to certain tones of cars moving, and more interestingly i found myself listening to the sound that my brush made against the paper as i drew a circle. it all became about minute perceptions – since the entire speaker is black, and deciphering its visual nuances became a very meditative activity. the finished drawings evoke more associations with the speakers i had in mind, such as the circle structure and repeating gestures suggest water, motion, spheres (heavenly and otherwise), etc.

i am interested in how a wall of speakers (what would traditionally be associated with a very loud ‘wall of sound’) functions as a silent visual object in a quiet space. for me, the act of looking is an extremely quiet act. as one silently becomes aware of the visual matter in front of them, so one also becomes aware of the quiet and stillness surrounding them. eventually, one begins to become a listener (or noticer) of the small ambient sounds that appear and disappear. by bringing the viewers’ attention to the details of the work visually first, and then the subtle details of the sounds in the space, my ‘speakers’ begin to function as they were originally intended – as objects of transference, bringing about an awareness within the listener of sound.

the title of the installation is ‘vascellum’, which is a latin ancestor of the word vessel. i am interested in the idea that speakers are containers (both physically and metaphorically- they contain sound and their shapes resemble bowls). i like jack tworkov’s quotation about art and vessels: ‘to be closed and open is the necessary function of all vessels. a completely closed vessel is the end. a completely open vessel is without substance.’ 1953 ”

with regards to the version in site of sound, do you have any special considerations when mass producing a work of this nature? is it different from putting out recordings?

yes, of course. i would love to do an edition of the piece that is two portable ‘speakers’ in some kind of little box. for site of sound i was a bit concerned at first that my piece (a two page spread, each page with a hand drawn image of a speaker) might come off as pretentious in the midst of a book of texts, but i didn’t really want to write a text just to write one… and i felt that the book could use a breather in the middle and i liked the idea of the book on a train or a plane or in a sunny room, and there would be these moments where one could simply lay the book down on one’s lap and kind of breathe in the space of the place they are in. the idea is that it is a participatory thing – a kind of surrogate for a sound installation or recording…  the experience is still devoted to the activity of listening.