Keep your eyes (and more to the point, your ears) on the 2:1 Gallery, a new art space in an old building in Detroit’s Eastern Market district. Under the guidance of Gregory Holm, one of the artists responsible for last year’s "Ice House Detroit" project, the space is currently serving as a pop-up sound art gallery. It’s also a kind of laboratory, where Holm and several collaborators work out ideas for another project: "Fire House Detroit." Holm describes "Fire House" as a “continuation of the dialogue started with ["Ice House"].” It culminates in a July 4 sound performance at a Corktown firehouse built in 1897. The performance will feature The Detroit Children’s Choir singing the words of a group of young poets known as the Street Poets Society.
It will also include the pyrophone, a striking instrument built by Holm and Jeffrey Williams that’s on display as part of “Haptic Resonance,” the show at 2:1 until the end of the month. The pyrophone consists of several glass tubes of varying lengths, each fixed atop a gas hose. When the gas is lit, the difference in temperature between the flames and tubes produces a rich, ambient drone.
There's much else to hear in the show, as much as there is to see and touch. The word "haptic,” in fact, refers to the sense of touch, and several pieces invite your tactile participation. Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s piece, which shares the show’s title, consists of several square feet of the wood floor marked off by black and yellow tape. A machine beneath the floor vibrates the square at various frequencies, and you’re encouraged to take off your shoes and stand in it, place your hands in it, sit, lie down, etc. Hagborg notes the work is inspired by the “deaf experience of music as pure vibration.”
You’ll also encounter sound sculptures by Graem Whyte, which conjure (in both appearance and sound) a sense of primordial natural forces. Interactive pieces by Ron Zakrin allow you to manipulate the sounds they produce (and in the case of "Rux Puzzle," shown above, to manipulate a delightful mechanical samurai bear, too). Frank Pahl’s beautiful, intricate, automatic instruments light up the space’s windows several times a night, and Williams transforms Erik Satie’s "Gymnopédie No. 1" into a compelling, unrecognizable prepared piano piece by placing two machines that vibrate at low frequencies on top of the piano strings.
Check out the video below for a better sense of some of the pieces in the show.
It's clear that a great deal of technical ingenuity was required to create the work included in "Haptic Resonance." But to appreciate it, you definitely don't need a sophisticated technical understanding; you just need to let your body listen.
The show runs until the end of May. The 2:1 Gallery is located at 1480 Gratiot in Detroit's Eastern Market. It keeps informal hours, but someone will likely be there most days between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., with special performances taking place some weekends. For more information, visit firehousedetroit.tumblr.com, or contact Greg Holm at 917-459-3398.