Exercise 01

Tara Donovan

Selection from "Drawings (Pins)" series, 2010
Gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins. 60” x 60” x 2-1/2”.

Tara Donovan (b.1969) is a Brooklyn, NY based artist.  Donovan is known for her large scale installations and sculptures made from “everyday” objects such as tape, drinking straws, paper and buttons.  She says she was originally drawn to everyday materials because they were readily available, inexpensive and mass produced.  She prefers working with “low profile” materials (no identifying colors or markings).  She believes these materials have an inherent magical quality to them when arranged or presented in the right way. Donovan tries to mimic the ways of nature and the way things naturally grow.

This piece is very much in line with Donovan’s previous works in that she utilizes an everyday material and brings it to life in a way that makes the observer forget what the material is.  The “Drawings (Pins)” series does differ however in that the forms and shapes Donovan creates are less “organic” than her previous works.  The pieces in the “Drawings (Pins)” series were thought out ahead of time, unlike almost all of Donovan’s previous work where she preferred to “discover through play” what the form of the piece was going to take.  I believe it was Donovan’s intention to obscure the material by using it to create a bigger piece, and to capture the magic and sense of play that she utilizes in her creative process.
    I imagine the observer walking into the gallery where these pieces are displayed and assuming that they are charcoal or pencil on paper, but as they move closer they begin to see the individual pins and they immediately get as close as they can to the piece, inspecting it.  I then imagine the observer would take a few steps back again, viewing the piece from further away, but this time they would understand the context of the work and most likely view it in a different way.
    This series is installed in a pretty traditional gallery set-up (the pieces are all hung on the wall so that the center of each piece is more or less eye-level.  I feel this is an appropriate way to display these particular pieces since the observer will want to be able to examine the work at a very close range, and hanging them at eye level is the easiest way to accomplish that.

Dan Graham

"Public Space/Two Audiences", 1976
Two rooms (each with separate entrance) divided by a sound-insulating glass panel, one mirrored wall, muslin, fluorescent lights, and wood. 9’ 3/8” x 24 x 10’ 1/2”. Collection Herbert, Ghent, Belgium. Installed in “Ambiente Arte,” XXXVII Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy.

Dan Graham (b.1942) is known for his work as an artist, writer, photographer and gallery owner.  He began his career in 1964 directing the John Daniels Gallery in New York City, which notably hosted Sol LeWitt’s first solo show.  Graham started out publishing essays and reviews on rock music and art, but eventually became more identified as a conceptual artist, incorporating photography, video, performance art, installations, and as he puts it, “something on the line of sculpture and architecture” (his famous pavilions).  Graham’s pavilions are constructed mostly out of steel and glass, and utilize various levels of transparency and reflectiveness.  The qualities Graham chooses for each piece of glass relate directly to the experience he intends the observer to have.  Much of Graham’s works focus on cultural and political movements such as the development of suburban America, the Civil and Women’s Rights Movements, corporate power and a surveillance society.

“Public Space/Two Audiences” was Grahams earliest architectural installation.  I believe this piece served as an experiment in how to create a specific experience for observers.  One of Graham’s central ideas in much of his work is examining how we perceive each other, how others perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. It was important to Graham to have the two rooms be visually aware of one another, but not aurally ware (as seen in the diagram above).  The panel of insulated glass in the center accomplished that goal.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this piece to me is the mirrored wall.  Graham chose to only have one of the end walls mirrored, making the experience of observers in that room different than the experience of the observers in the other room because the person who is looking into the mirror is seeing them self and also everyone else in both sides of the installation. People not facing  the mirror will see a “ghost” reflection of them self in the glass partition as well as the people on the other side of the installation. The people on the other side of the partition but facing the glass wall will see the “ghost” reflections of themselves as well as their reflection and everyone else’s reflection in the mirrored wall.  All of these variables create the opportunities for different perceptions of one’s self as well as others.
    I imagine people interacting with this space by entering one side, taking a few minutes to get oriented and discover that both sides are not the same, and also realizing that they are not able to hear anyone on the other side of the partition.  I then imagine that many people would want to explore the other side as well and see how their experience changed.
    The piece seems to be installed semi-permanently, meaning that it would be possible to take down and move, but it is probably more feasible to recreate the piece elsewhere.

Steve Reich

"Pendulum Music", 1968
Music for microphones, amplifiers, speakers and performers.  Legnth of the piece is from the time the performers pick up the microphones until the microphones have come to rest and the performers unplug the cables.  Performance venue may vary.

Steve Reich (b. 1936) is an American minimalist and process music composer.  Reich began his career in the early 60’s experiementing with twelve-tone music and well as tape loops.  Working with tape eventually lead Reich to become interested in minimilist music.  Minimalist music utilizes “cells” that are looped at slightly offset intervals, often resulting in a hypnotic effect as the cells shift in and out of “phase” with one another.  Since his career began Reich has composed dozens of works that have led to much critical acclaim, and he is acknowledged by many as one of the greatest living composers of contemporary music.  Reich’s most well knwon pieces include “It’s Gonna Rain” 1965 (tape loops), “Piano Phase” 1967 (for two pianos),“Clapping Music” 1972 (for two people clapping), and “Music for 18 Musicians” 1974 (for violin, cello, 4 female voices, 6 pianos, 6 marimbas, 4 xylophones, metallophone, 2 clarinets and 2 bass clarinets. Some musicians double on instruments).

“Pendulum Music” was a very important piece for Reich.  As both a minimalist and process music composer, “Pendulum Music” falls right on the line of both.  This particular piece is interesting in that it leaves many things to chance.  With no notated score, the instructions are more or less up to the performers to interpret in their own way.  Thus, there is no “correct” way to perform the piece.  In addition to the phasing effect so prominent in minimalist music, “Pendulum Music” also adds the variable of very gradually slowing down, descending little by little into the final drone as all of the microphones finally come to rest.  The anticipation of that moment will drive anyone to the edge of their seat, just fighting the urge to reach out and grab the swinging microphones.
    If that was the reaction Reich was going for, I can’t say for sure, but I feel that the idea of having the majority of the piece happen on it’s own, with nothing but momentum and gravity altering the phase and duration of the pitches was definitely something that Reich was intrigued by.  The fact that this piece is also so open to interpretation was probably a factor as well.  The “instructional” nature of the score reminds me of similar scores/pieces by composers such as John Cage and Yoko Ono.
    No matter how one performance may vary from others, I feel that this piece always creates a very unique and complex auditory landscape for the listener.  I imagine as an audience member experiences the piece, they may become visually enthralled with the swinging microphone cables, mimicking that hypnotic quality of the music.  To me this piece is like watching a top spin in slow motion, just waiting for it to finally collapse and come to rest, and the feeling of completion that comes when it finally does.

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