8 windows

sound installation
university art museum
tempe arizona

8 windows was originally created for the exhibition sig alert at the unversity art museum, at asu tempe, arizona in 1999, and curated by john spiak. the exhibition traveled to “the irvine fine arts center, irvine, california; and was re-constructed for the exhibition “liminal spaces”at bard college, in annendale on hudson, new york in 2002, curated by cassandra coblentz. 8 windows began recordings of various parts of my car while driving on the freeway – by placing contact mics on the engine, windshield, doors, etc. after listening back to the original 8 recordings, i recorded myself humming 8 different notes in resonance with the 8 tones of my driven car. the voice tracks were then processed and mixed into a composition – a fluctuating drone of voices, as a kind of human reflection of the pitch and tones of the machine. the work was originally presented in a darkened empty room with 4 speakers and 4 chairs.

the black and white picture is from the recording “session”, and the color image is from a 2002 exhibition of the piece at bard college in new york.

here is a text that was placed adjacent to the 1999 first version of the installation:

“sitting inside my car with the windows rolled up, watching the things move by my window in a kind of self imposed silence; my car becomes an isolation booth – a think tank. within this quiet sanctuary, there is a feeling of heightened awareness – a space that allows one access to thoughts and ideas that could not occur elsewhere. a quiet place for reflection… a room of my own. a lot of my paintings have been resolved sitting on the freeway in my car. a lot of film and sound ideas considered and born. it is not only a quiet time to reflect inwards, but so often a fragment of something visible outside the car will inspire a response. obviously here in LA there is a lot of ‘studio time’ available to the driver. in the past, i have tried to use the car as a studio space to physically make work. a series of spoken word pieces recorded at various times on a portable micro-recorder in response to the cars, buses, people & landscape. a series of drawings done in a few seconds limited by the durations and locations of red lights. a lot of work has come from this place. in a way, the car is my own sort of quiet small building. the kind i am always attracted to. corbusier’s small plywood cabin, or the small shed where mahler wrote his second symphony. i am interested in these small spaces of privacy; of absolute intimacy and solitude. the car is a private space in which to view the world. a space in which i can be completely aware of what enters and exits my mind without distraction. a portable space that i can take almost anywhere. i can alter the sights by moving at different speeds – or wander in almost any direction. i can alter the sounds – seal myself off from the world by closing the windows; or open them to participate in the world again. sound is something one can be submerged in – a kind of virtual space that leads one inwards. i have always likened audio composition to building and architecture – a skeletal structure is put together and certain ‘skins’ are layered upon it. the sounds i work with are fragmented and subtle – perhaps like small structures – tents, or small quiet rooms for physical stagnation and mental wandering. ‘8 windows’ is a space constructed with sound. as the stereo field moves back and forth between the speakers, it creates an audio enclosure. the sounds were all generated by my automobile. contact microphones were taped to the window, engine, and body of the car. recordings were made while driving on the freeway. fragments of the recording were then electronically transformed and layered. what i ended up with was a kind of audio mess that related perfectly to my ideas, but lacked a human element and the essence of the space – the piece was just too cold. while listening back to the 8 individual sounds of the engine and resonances of the car i began to sing to myself a kind of root note. i began to become more involved in the listening to what i had recorded – and to my own responses to the sounds the car made. i then repeated my composition process, only this time electronically transforming, looping, and layering my voice in response to the actual sounds of the car. the basis of what you are hearing is the reaction of my own body to the pitch of the sounds of the car on the freeway. seven tracks of my voice are looped and sent through a few audio filters and a ring modulator. the eighth track i left alone. this track, audible and unchanged, is the sound of a contact mic which came loose from the heat of my engine, dragging along the surface of the freeway. my intention is not to recreate the experience of driving, or the sound of my car; but to suggest the kind of intimate space the car has for me. a space to direct one’s awareness from the outward to the inward. like a painting inspired by a diagram, letter, or any other inconsiderable thing; this audio painting is made up of reactions and responses to the micro-fragments of things heard. the sound is intended to leave you room to breathe. to think. and to wander. the music has no narrative – it is just a space that one can move in and out of. my car has 8 windows.”