This project exists as a series of photographic C-prints and a meditative audio/video gallery installation in which I visualize planes of pure sound that correspond to field recordings of various spans of high tension wire.
Because there are few roads in the rural interior of Rio Grande do Sul, and the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line, the high tension wires that supply remote farms with electricity follow a pragmatic logic, often departing from established routes like dirt roads and rail road beds to cut across the region’s otherwise natural and agrarian landscape. One can trace these power lines from one farm to the next, through picturesque fields of rice, soybeans, and grazing animals towards the urban centers where the supply of electricity originates.
I treat these electrical cables and their supporting utility poles as a monumental stringed instrument, which is always producing a unique oscillating music that is the result of an unconscious collaboration between man and nature. This large scale instrument consists of an electrical wire pulled taught between a series of utility poles in the much the same way as conventional musical instruments like pianos, guitars, violins or harps have strings that are stretched between their bridges. Incidental sound generated by each span of wire is captured by contact microphones buried in the ground at the base of the poles. The sounds are not manipulated in any way, only amplified, drawing attention to the frequencies that are always already being produced by the electromagnetic fields that surround the wires and natural forces like wind, seismic activity, and animals. These field recordings provide the mesmerizing score for the video installation in which ephemeral planes materialize, temporarily illuminating, for the viewer, the various spans of wire I used in making this composition.
62931-62943 maps the trajectory of power through the rural landscape. It ignores property boundaries and ordinary travel routes, as it slices through various panoramic scenes, appearing and disappearing en route to deliver the lifeblood of modernity to distant farms. The video, through a very abstract narrative, tells the story of my discovery of and fascination with this sonic phenomenon. It chronicles my encounters with imaginary architectures of pure sonic vibration in what I call “agricultural time” – a slower kind of time within which the local agrarian community functions. Its measure is based on natural and seasonal rhythms like the growth of crops, the fattening of animals, and the change of seasons.
The project engages in a dialog with the history of earth art, sharing it’s monumental scale and it’s dual existence (reality, and the representations through which most people experience it) with the earthworks of Robert Smithson, and the collaborative projects of Jean Claude & Christo, particularly Running Fence and Valley Curtain, which slice through the natural landscape in a similar manner. There is a dimension of self-referentiality in common with Robert Morris’ 1961 Box With the Sound of its Own Making, a nine inch walnut cube containing a speaker and a tape recording of its actual construction, in that 62931-62943 acknowledges electrical power, as it’s own condition of possibility. The electricity delivered through the depicted wire and utility poles is actually used to power the equipment that records the sounds, takes the pictures, edits the composition and plays it back. The first person Morris ever showed his project to was John Cage, a great influence on Morris and a whole generation of visual artists. Although a truly cross-disciplinary figure whose production included art, dance and theater, Cage is most known as a composer of modern avant-garde music. From a compositional standpoint, 62931-62943 follows in the tradition of Cage’s music, which embraces chance operations and, inspired by the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp, finds music in the everyday situations, in the found sounds and noise of our environment. Like Cage’s famous composition 4′ 33″, 62931-62943 turns our attention toward what is already there, to a found situation. The limited frequencies that compose 62931-62943 remind one of the works of Minimalist composers Lamonte Young and Terry Riley whose pieces are based on select long held pitches that are played continuously for the duration of the work. The project’s enigmatic name is derived from the numerical identification tags found on each utility pole. 62931-62943 is the interval of poles used to make this composition. It is only one small segment of the larger power grid of possibilities, and the piece may be expanded. . .