sound installation
beyond baroque
venice, california

observatory was created for the second annual beyond music festival in 1999, at beyond baroque literary arts center in los angeles. the piece was created specifically for a small dark ‘archive’ – a small room that contains an archive of publications for the center’s library and publication history. the piece was inspired by a diary text written by joseph cornell, regarding the 5 things he always loved to view from his kitchen window, which he often referred to as his ‘observatory’.

5 tape loop compositions were created; each one using one of cornell’s 5 things seen, as sources for the recordings (which were also transformed electronically).  the five sources for the recordings were: the sounds of birds, trees (rustling leaves), sun (the sound of the sun as harnessed through a magnifying glass burning the contact mic), snow (television static) and rain.

each of the 5 loops was running on a hidden cassette player, concealed in a hollowed out old book, which was then painted black and had a small speaker embedded in its spine –  so that the sounds quietly emanated from a few books on the overly crowded shelves. depending on the listener’s location in the room, each sound had a different prominence in the piece – and the listener’s movements allowed for different sounds to be heard – a kind of interactive version of mixing by simply exploring the space. the archive room had no windows, so the audio acted as a kind of “sound window” offering access to cornell’s imagery through sound.

the piece was re-installed in 2010 at the armory center for the arts for my 20 year survey, and like the original installation, the books on the shelves came from the on-site archive, so that the titles were specific to the location, as with the earlier version.