Luther Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota, once said that in his day children were taught to listen intently when all was seemingly quiet. Urban visitors at the Evanston Art Center are well advised to take on this attitude in order to best experience the “acoustic ecology”—a subtle, non-visual art. In a small square room, Shawn Decker has hung four galvanized buckets full of water in each corner from piano wire; the wire is struck by a spinning motor programmed with a computer chip, making the water resonate. The result is a random chorus of cicadas chiming in with one another, but the effect is one of becoming-insect rather than rural nostalgia. Lou Mallozzi’s “Interval” studies certain repetitive acts invested with meaning: tuning a piano, a cough, chopping wood. In a gesture of humanistic defiance, speakers attached to bay windows project these sounds outward into the environment, toward the lake in the distance, perhaps toward New York. Mark Booth’s audio piece in an upper room presents his own field recordings in two channels, with a dispassionate voice coming through a third, labeling the sounds: “This is the sound of a non-magical four-leaf clover…” The dark room with the low-hanging bulb gives it an aura of a metaphysical interrogation. Christy Matson’s work involves whispering robotic devices in which a magnetic fluid forms and deforms. On the wall opposite Sabrina Raaf has hung three pieces of metallic cloth hand-woven on a jacquard loom. When you touch the cloth, it interacts with your body’s electrical field to produce a tiny, fugitive rustling. If Decker’s piece makes you think of your body as a resonating chamber not unlike a bucket of water, Raaf reminds you that even amid proliferating and mutating media, your own body is an electrical system too. In this way, these works go beyond sound art, and reanimate the idea of sculpture. (David Mark Wise)
Through April 6 at Evanston Art Center, 2603 Sheridan Road, Evanston, (847)475-5300.