last call

Installation view at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA (July, 1995). Mixed media, custom electronics, sound (dimensions variable)



A sail is constructed from metal wire strung diagonally between a vertical wooden mast and an anchor point on the floor. A motion detection system is used to turn the movement of visitors into sound signals, and these signals are used to resonate the wire sail. The sail in turn functions to filter the sound signals generated by visitors to the piece, and these signals are broadcast through a speaker attached to another mast placed at a distance from the sail. When a visitor is near the sail, they can hear the filtered sound of their motion calling to them from across the room; as they move towards the speaker, the sound of their image fades away.

 

Based in part to the mythological story of Odysseus' encounter with the Sirens, Last Call refers both to the promise of desire and the desire of promise. The sail, with its historical associations of exploration, exploitation, and a sense of endless frontier that today is no longer with us, serves both as an allegory for a time when an open horizon was a promise of material, spiritual, and cultural riches, and as a reminder of the many costs which those types of promises bore out. Here the sail is filled with sound instead of wind, thus turning it into a great harp and pairing the image of the Sirens' lyres with the energies that push at the sail. However, the real driving force of the piece is found in the sonic image of the visitor. This image, always calling and perpetually out of reach, presents the visitor with a shimmering, unattainable picture of him- or herself. Last Call posits this desire derived from the promise of an idealized self as a permanent condition, one that relentlessly informs and directs human behavior at all social levels from the individual to the nationwide.