A Tenuous Attraction (Tricia Van Eck)

What is public space within a museum? We know how it looks, but how does it act, sound, and feel? How do we experience art in public? This question was at the heart of Interactions, a four-month long series of artist and audience activations that occurred within the exhibition Without You I Am Nothing: Art and Its Audience, which considered the experiential relationship between artwork and audience. As curator, I invited Coppice to create a work for Interactions to explore the distinct, visceral relationship that occurs when artists create work in the presence of the viewer.

Vinculum (Coincidence) consisted of four speakers placed in the gallery amidst large works by Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, Dan Peterman, Adrian Piper, and Andrea Zittel. The speakers – reverberating through the normally quiet space – played pre-recorded sounds that initially seemed like breaths or wind blowing but then altered or transformed as if mechanical parts hissing and whooshing across and through the space. Once these speakers were on, Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer stoically entered, each with an accordion. For two hours each day, for six days they played, slowly moving around the space and each other.

People walking by the galleries – where sound is not normally present – upon hearing the hypnotic yet enigmatic sounds from within, would often stop and try to locate what it was and where it was coming from. Seeing one or both of the performers and their accordions would not necessarily answer their confusion. Some would walk away perplexed, while others would be drawn in. Once inside, the effects of the performance were individualized and subjective. Some, perhaps realizing that their movements intersected the score, chose to remain motionless, while others moved around the gallery seemingly looking and testing how the different sculptures absorbed or reverberated the sounds. Some, perhaps musicians, appeared to be acutely listening as if discerning patterns and phrasing of melodies and breaths. Still others were interested solely in the performers – imitating their stances or interrupting their silences by talking with them. Most intriguing to me, was how sculptural the performers, the sounds, and by extension, the audience became. It was as if Vinculum (Coincidence), with its continuous droning of tones, breaths, and modulations, froze or at least slowed the viewers as they walked among the objects in the gallery, as if coalescing into a spatio-temporal synchronous whole. It was if by listening, the audience could tenuously hold the experience, the shifting sounds, and themselves together, in space with each other.