Cum On Feel The Noize at MMAA

By anne
April 15, 2007 - 13:34.

With all due respect to Quiet Riot, gettin’ wild at a rock concert may feed one’s vibrational cravings for a day—but learning how to listen to the sounds of the stones, and of the earth, wind and fire, will help nourish both intellect and soul for a lifetime.

Eleven artists who are interested in sound (but who don’t wear leather vests and tight pants) are represented at Minnesota Museum of Art’s Sound in Art/Art in Sound exhibition (through July 1). It’s worth a visit.

Last night’s opening featured a live performance by Beatrix*JAR (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske) involving a dance in which the duo teased each other with earphone jacks, all the while grinning like kids when the babysitter’s gone to the bathroom and they’ve got exactly three minutes to hide her purse—followed by an audible display of “organic sounds hidden within battery powered machines.” Funky but awkward, as the JAR-ing meant patrons couldn’t hear other work, and the servers passing grapes covered in goat cheese (yum!) inexplicably froze in place with trays positioned out of our reach (darn).

Grapeless, my friend Karl and I stepped onto the back deck for a spell and reveled in the cool April breeze and the twinkling lights of the paddleboats docked along the Mississippi riverfront below.

Upon our return, we beelined for a piece we couldn’t hear during B*JAR: Abinadi Meza’s Creatures, a black mesh pet carrier sitting on the floor that supposedly emanates purring and/or scratching sounds. MMAA’s press release says there are two carriers but we saw only one. Hearing nothing at the 5-foot-something level, Karl and I knelt on the floor and pressed our ears to the mesh. Still nothing. Then another noggin joined us and my eyes caught the name on the associated tag: Jack Pavlik, whose The Storm undulates and metallically sings in the main gallery.

“Jack!” I said. “You’re the one who made that steel sculpture over there. I’ve seen it before. I LOVE that!” I gushed. (My heart rate tends to increase when I meet artists whose work I admire.) “Yes, I…” he began. “Did you hear anything?” I asked. “Did I…?” he tried again. “In the pet bag,” I explained. He hadn’t. None of us had. We scrambled to our feet and made proper introductions, including Jack’s muse, Meliss Arik, sparkling in a Jordanian salwar kamise.

Jack has a job with a disk drive manufacturer. Their components have labels like “nano” and “pico” (translation: teensy). For a guy who creates large-scale, art-sonic Erector® sets, it must be like 9-to-5-ing on the set of Honey, I Shrunk the Sculptures. My dream house would have a long, wide hallway filled with Pavlik’s giant kinetics, and lit so that the shadows of the moving parts would spell out their rhythms on the walls.

After the show, over pot roast at Fabulous Fern’s, Karl and I exchanged views on the value of sound as a nutritional element. It’s my philosophy that artists see and hear and feel more deeply than the rest of us. They interpret the sights, sounds and emotional currents of the universe so that we can better learn from our surroundings and from human history. They extrapolate and synthesize in ways that cause reactions—and that’s good for us. We need that kind of stimulus to thrive.

For example, I believe that once you hear the scuffle of roots growing deep within the soil, and the crackle of frost forming on a pane of glass, thanks to sound artist Leif Brush, you cannot help but understand the whole world differently. You cannot help but to have sympathy for the seen and unseen life forms that cohabit human space on Earth. It makes you more appreciative, somehow.

Make some noize!

Composer J. Anthony Allen and visual artist Christopher Baker’s collaborative Urban Echo interweaves voicemail and text messages, live collected sounds from four remote locations across the Twin Cities, and live transmitted sounds from within the gallery into a dynamic interactive projection and composition.

To participate in Urban Echo, call 612-501-2598 in response to the following two questions: What do you hear? What do you want others to hear? The artists request that callers leave their zip code as part of their voice or text message so they can create a map of the locations of the added material.

The Minnesota Museum of American Art is at Kellogg Blvd & Market Street, downtown St. Paul. Admission: Free. For more information: or 651-266-1030.

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