Suffice it to say that Peter Flemming‘s work resonates with me (yuck, yuck, yuck! Sorry I couldn’t resist). In short, Mr. Flemming makes resonators. Quite fascinating ones I might add. The show is up at Skol until Saturday.
In a slightly longer version, Mr. Flemming’s exhibition, called Instrumentation, involves five linked pieces, plus six other small “display” objects some posters and videos. When you first walk around the wall into the main gallery you are confronted with four objects that if you squint enough look like large roughly built megaphones, ear horns or gramophone amplifiers, take your pick. Actually, three. There’s one that while functioning the same way actually looks more like a room divider for a tall person’s garage or workshop. Each of them make a different noise, although it is kind of difficult to figure out what noise emanates from which one.
Then in the back room is a large console of a vaguely mechanical nature with rotating plastic lids on plywood arms, three goose-necked lamps that change in intensity, some drums and some wires. Lots and lots and lots of wires. According to various websites the console (which really is just a large plywood table, but sounds more impressive if I call it a console) is responsible for making the various noises, dimming the lights and all sorts of other endlessly entertaining things.
On their own, the speakers were mildly interesting visually, mainly due to how they were constructed. Plywood and carpentry clamps were the main materials used in one and the others were similarly made out of items that are easily findable in just about any hardware store. It wasn’t until I ventured into the back room that I got excited. While I’ve never been accused of being part of any maker community (I tend to take things apart and break them instead of creating things) as a card carrying generic guy I’m fascinated by others that do. Which if you think about it makes sense, wince I tend to write about them.
The console had just the right number of mechanical doohickeys and automated gizmos to keep me fascinated for what seemed like hours. Then it slowly dawned on me, I’m not always the sharpest tack on the box, that it was controlling everything, and that was my moment of discovery. But how it was controlling things wasn’t exactly clear. Which obviously meant that I had to spend the better part of an hour studying it in minute detail trying to figure it out. Ultimately I wasn’t successful. Sometimes the machine does win. But I was undaunted. As I get older I don’t have to win everything absolutely every time.
For the curious, there are some very informative videos that do a good job of explaining how the sounds are made, unfortunately I didn’t take notes, so I can’t repeat them here. They’re short enough (I think the five different films are about 15 minutes long in total) that it isn’t difficult to sit through them all. And I was pleased to see that they were not playing on an endless loop when I visited, which made things that much more understandable. Also in what could be called the lobby, or the foyer to the gallery were six objects taken from what I presume was an earlier version of the console and were displayed on pedestals and mounted on the wall like regular run of the mill art objects.
Prior to understanding what was happening, I said that the speakers were “mildly interesting visually.” But once I realized that everything was hooked up a linked together, they became completely fascinating. I poured over them taking pictures from every possible angle trying to break the code. It’s a amazing what a little spark will do. Unfortunately, none of my pictures of the details do any of the works any justice. While I seem to be able to take reasonable pictures of objects, I haven’t quite mastered close-ups, yet.
On the whole Instrumentation was a pretty kick-ass show, taking maker culture at white cubing it. I enjoyed myself immensely trying to follow all the cables and figure out what bit was responsible for what movement, even if I was ultimately unsuccessful. It kind of reminded me of some of Mitchell F. Chan’s work. Personally I’m very glad that I don’t work at Skol being assaulted by the noise everyday would go a long way towards making me even loopier than I already am. But in shorter doses while I’m focused on how it’s being made is a completely different kettle of fish.