INSTALLATIONS at the Des Moines Art Center

Des Moines, Iowa

“Four Interventions”  1995


Chamber

Located  in the main exhibition lobby of the Eliel Saarinen building at the Des Moines Art Center, “Chamber” consists of three main elements.  First, the lighting is  subdued.  Oak panels that serve as the walls of the lobby are cleaned and polished with an extract of orange furniture oil.  A Derksen slide projector is installed in the ceiling projecting onto the floor a rotating text (counter-clockwise).  This text is derived from a Saarinen book of “aesthetic theory” he compiled in 1948, as he served as the first President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  The text refers to an unobtainable mystery about the nature of life.  The reference to a hidden, unknowable chamber is linked to the counter-clockwise motion as if the text escapes from underneath the floor.


SIGH

SIGH was a sound work based on the acoustics and dynamic sound of the HVAC system in the I.M. Pei wing of the Des Moines Art Center.  Pei’s construction techniques include characteristic “slotting” of the cast concrete structure, making inlets and outlets for air to pass through.  This is a form of a whistle or other wind instrument where air passes into an opening, is routed and passed out again.  A microphone was set up in the core intakes of the HVAC system (pictured in the top and lower picture as a long, longitudinal slot). The signal from this microphone was sent to a mixer, and processed through a DHP-33 digital harmonizer . 
The sound processor created harmonies in each of the two channels.  The frequency of these harmonies were not in sync, so that when sounds conflicted, there were fourth and fifth harmonies.  This processed sound was sent to a digital fader that randomly controlled the fade-in and fade-out rates so that the cycle did not sound mechanically regulated.  This signal was amplified and sent to two speakers (pictured in top and lower picture, on top of ledge). The characteristic of this sound was an organic and audible “sigh” that was heard throughout the Pei wing, permeating the mood of the space.


Shadow (Coal)

Located between the Eliel Saarinen and Richard Meier wings of the Des Moines Art Center, “Shadow (coal)” locates through material association the history of Des Moines as a center for coal resources in the Midwest.  Early in the city’s history, local coal deposits were the readily available fuel for home industry and transportation.  Underground mining in Des Moines persisted for about 100 years (1840-1947).  Recorded production totalled  50, 965,427 tons from reserves of 750 million tons. 32 tons of coal were placed in the former grassy space over a storage vault.  This vein extends through to the west side of building, viewable from the glassed bridge between the wings and from vantage points outside the Center.  “Shadow” is a reference to time through the stark shiny blackness of the material.  Like earlier works such as the “Tahualtapa Project” (collection of the Seattle Art Museum), material sources become the thematic image for reference to hidden histories and forgotten stories about the land. This work was purchased by the Des Moines Art Center by a grant from the Bohen Foundation for the permanent collection.


Shadow (H20)

Located in a sunken courtyard in the Richard Meier wing of the Des Moines Art Center, “Shadow (H20)”  is an homage to the floods in Des Moines in the Summer of 1993.  The courtyard is located adjacent to the “tower” structure in the Meier building which locates a half-spiral stairwell. Aluminum stripping sealed a doorway and leading edge of the tower’s curvature.  Aluminum also blocked the tree and shrubbery area in the center of the courtyard.  Water flooded the courtyard to a depth of 6”.  The lamps inside the granite wall were changed to a blue color as were the landscaping illumination along the path leading to an exterior stairway down to the courtyard.  The colored light changed the building color from white to blue. During summer nights, fireflies would congregate over the water and during the day children would wade and play in the water, a cool respite from the humid hot days of July.

 

Four Interventions

Chamber

Sigh

Shadow (Coal)

Shadow (H20)

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