In an effort to depart from the simplistic headphone or speaker treatment often given to sound art in gallery settings, artist Margaret Noble had produced an entire body of work fusing sculptural sound art with interactivity, ensuring that each piece is a unique and unexpected experience for every viewer that enters the Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts.
No two works in Resonating Objects are visually or even sonically alike, curiously causing the exhibition to feel more like a group show than the output of a single artistic mind. Head in the Sand is a claustrophobic challenge, forcing the viewer to place their head into a hole in a wooden box if one wishes to hear the cosmic sound emanating from within the piece. Conversely, A Score for Conversation requires the participation of two viewers, each who is encouraged to use one of the piece’s ‘sound boxes” in order to have a ‘sound conversation,’ or dialogue expressed entirely through abstract sound.
Noble’s decision to engage with interactivity in her works originates from the desire to connect more personally with her audience: “For me, sound can be intrusive and sometimes unsuccessful at communicating in gallery spaces, and so I wanted to create a moment where the audience could begin the artwork exploration when ready,” Noble tells The Creators Project. “I use interactive gesture so that the objects inhabited by the sounds feel alive and responsive to users. I think that interactive experiences create a more connected and immersive art experience.”
Indeed, many of the works in Resonating Objects focus on provoking divergent emotions in each viewer dependent on their own life experiences. The highly personal experience of memory is the main subject matter in I Long to be Free from Longing. Presented in an antique briefcase, the piece consists of many small boxes with removable lids that reveal minute but familiar sounds like the chirp of a grasshopper or the creaking of a chair, meant to trigger divergent associations of memory in each viewer.
Index of Fear functions somewhat similarly but with a focus on images and sounds that most people have negative associations with. As the viewer pulls out a typically uncomfortable cultural artifact like a pregnancy test from a cabinet, a corresponding sound is emitted from the box, in this case the agitating sound of a ticking clock.
But despite the pronounced emphasis on interactivity, Noble argues interaction is merely a means to achieve a larger end, not the goal of the exhibition itself: “If my work stopped with interaction as its primary message, then I would feel concerned that I am only making toys for pleasurable entertainment,” Noble explains. “I am definitely open to audiences enjoying the kinetic interaction offered by the works, but I am seeking to go deeper on conceptual levels about human experience and our relationships with technology and each other.”
Resonating Objects just finished its run at The Gallery at the Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts on October 21st, but Margaret Noble has two upcoming solo exhibitions at Gibbs Street Gallery and Olin Fine Art Gallery Washington on the horizon. More of the artist’s work can be viewed here.