“Chorus” installation gives new sonic life to discarded objects

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What do an electric tie rack, animated shoe form and 8mm projector have in common?

All are part of “Chorus for Untrained Operators,” the interactive installation at the Crowell and West Galleries in the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts.

The exhibit features a collection of ordinary discarded objects, all of which have been relieved of their original functions, rewired and transformed to emphasize their sounds. The ensemble is controlled through the patchbay of a 1940s Western Electric switchboard.

Western Electric Switchboard

Visitors become operators by using the switchboard buttons and patch points to add sounds and construct a composition. They can note their arrangements with the instrument on the provided score sheets and leave them for future visitors to perform.

“As with Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades, the functional utility of the objects is discarded to reveal new ideas and new sonic lives,” says David Ogawa, associate professor of art history, who curated the exhibit.

The tactile experience of the switchboard, Ogawa notes, “allows us to reflect on some of the mechanics of communication that our contemporary devices so actively hide from us.”

The installation, which changes drastically each time it is installed, was created by sound artists and educators Peter Bussigel and Stephan Moore. Bussigel teaches at Emily Carr University in Vancouver and Moore at Northwestern’s Sound Arts and Industries program. Their collaboration was supported by Brown University and developed at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts in Providence, where it premiered in 2016.

The artists will give a gallery talk at 5 p.m. Oct. 3 during an opening reception in the Feigenbaum Center. The reception is set for 4-7 p.m.

The show runs through Dec. 6.