vanishing point

Installation view at the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA (March, 2001). Mixed media, electronics, sound (dimensions variable)



Vanishing Point is a site-specific sound installation and made for the windows of the main space of the Berkeley Art Museum. It is in part a response to Robert Irwin's "Untitled" (1969), which is part of the Museum's permanent collection. Irwin's piece is one of a series of disc paintings that he produced in answer to the self-posed question, "How do I paint a painting that doesn't begin and end at the edge?" The painting articulates a limnal state in which its contours appear always in flux. Using that piece as a point of reference, Vanishing Point uses sound in the space of the Museum windows to articulate similar terrain — one in which the beginning and end points of audio events are unclear and one in which sounds hover though a series of intermediary states.

 

The audio content of the pieces is a series of chords and pitch relationships derived from the measurements of the windows. The chords drift from one into another via slow arcing glissandi. This transformation takes place over the course of several minutes, so that the gradually shifting states between the two chords can be heard in an extended manner. The sound in each of these transformations fades in just after the glissandi have started and fade out just before the pitches for the target chord are reached. Thus the actual chords that articulate the space of the piece are themselves not heard, but their presence is clearly implied. Built from plain sine tones, the chords are hard to localize in space and their physical source appears to shift depending on the location of the listener.

 

These sounds are played through special drivers attached to the windows so that the glass panes of the windows themselves function as speakers. This allows the piece to be heard both inside and outside the building as it turns the architectural space into a sounding body that acoustically articulates its own vanishing point between interior and exterior.