Sound Bridge

Shawn Decker: Sound Bridge

This work is a permanent site-specific installation in the Finnish artist Jan-Erik Andersson’s (a frequent collaborator with me on other projects as well) Gesamtkunstwerk (or ‘Total Art Work’), the leaf shaped house Life on a Leaf. The unique house, which functions as a home for Andersson’s family in Turku, was first conceived in 1999, and completed in 2009. It was was planned with architect Erkki Pitkäranta, with whom Andersson has worked for many years under the name Rosegarden Art & Architecture.

Writer Robert Powell has described his impression of the house in an article in the BLUEPRINT Magazine (December 2009)

“The form of the Leaf House is unique. By day it resembles a strange hat or misshapen boat; by night a Jack O’ Lantern, glowing from within, its windows evoking the abstracted eyes and mouth of some Finnish folklore giant. Though the structure appears quirky and follyesque – modernism goes Moomin – it is far from haphazard.”

Along with sources like Kurt Schwitters, Le Corbusier, Antoni Gaudi, Bruce Goff, Konstantin Melnikov, Hundertwasser, Archigram and Rem Koolhaas Andersson has also been inspired by the Swedish children’s author, Elsa Beskow, whose tales include houses shaped like hats and umbrellas. One of Andersson’s constant themes during his 30 years as an artist is the investigation and questioning of the border between the colourful and iconic aesthetics constructed by adults for children and the somber seriousness which usually is related to adult visual culture.

As part of the house project, Andersson comissioned artists to create site-specific permanent works of art as part of the house.  For this project I created a permanent sound installation that is integrated into the railing of the bridge that passes over the central living space and into the master bedroom.  The initial visual design for the railing was visually created during a joint residency at the ragdale foundation several years earlier (including tracings made of my legs, etc.).  The idea was the build small speakers into the decorative railing as "berries" or other natural elements matching the various ornamental elements that were designed into the laser-cut aluminum panels.  If you look carefully at the detail photographs, you should be able to see these speakers.

The piece utilizes 54 speakers spread throughout two railings - one on each side.  There are light sensors and wind sensors outside which  help to drive the piece inside.  The work is made up of many many very quiet ticking sounds (akin to the "ticking" of metal heating/cooling, or the sound of small insect noises, etc.) which are driven by various processes derived from nature.  The idea is to create quite ever-changing rhythms withint the house that lie just below one's sense of awareness (unless one notices them) and which connect the interior of the house to the exterior rhythms of wind and sun,  and an overall sense of constant change.

Below is a recording of the piece, made with a stero microphone immediately below the bridge. As the piece is so very quiet, there is a lot of ambient noise in the recoding.  To get the best sense of the work, adjust you volume so that the clicking sounds are quite quiet.

more images:

    Shawn Decker: Sound Bridge - detail    Shawn Decker: Sound Bridge    Shawn Decker: Sound Bridge    Jan-Erik Andersson - Life on a Leaf House    Jan-Erik Andersson - Life on a Leaf House    Jan-Erik Andersson - Life on a Leaf House    Shawn Decker: Sound Bridge