BUFFALO RIVER FUGUES, 2006
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center — Buffalo, New York
Curated by John Massier, Hallwalls Visual Arts Curator
Buffalo River Fugues is a site-specific installation in one of the galleries of Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center where the architect chose to leave all the heating and cooling ductwork completely exposed. Working with this interior design decision, my installation of industrial pipes, vents, and electrical conduits is integrated into the architecture in such a way as to blur the lines between my intervention and what is already there.
Walking through the gallery, the viewer encounters the haunting sounds of an old steel mill breathing through a large pipe; abandoned tool boxes; and a radio playing a fugue spun from fragments of songs, evangelical prophecies, advertisements, and tourists exclaiming in wonder at Niagara Falls. An image of the powerful waterfalls plays continuously on the “portable” TV which, like the transistor radio, is not actually portable at all, but instead is hardwired and connected to a whole system of electrical conduits running, like line drawings, throughout the space.
Mixed-media Installation: 24” diameter spiral steel pipe with heights up to 16 ft. and lengths up to 14 ft.; 5 sheet metal boxes with portable dvd players & audio; radio retrofitted with audio speakers; portable TV retrofitted to play video & audio; electrical conduit; tool box and cooler.
Buffalo River Fugues quietly explores issues of of power and loss. In an ironic statement, video images of emergency candles light the space. Installed in metal lantern-boxes seemingly receiving power through the electrical conduits, these candles burn down, flicker out, and then are relit in a repetitive cycle reminiscent of Buffalo’s own history of industry and loss. Like a poem, Buffalo River Fugues is experienced line by line, in fragments, which when visually assembled become a poignant elegy to the complex and changing relationship of a society to its industries and its rivers.
Buffalo River Fugues –
essay by John Massier
Also available in:
RIVER FUGUES – Margaret Cogswell
A book of essays and images of 17 years of River Fugues projects and drawings.
Installation photos: Dennis Cowley
Video stills:Margaret Cogswell