Sound and breath unite in art
by Kayla Calloway
Issue date: 2/18/09 Section: Arts & Culture, The Clackamas Sprint


In the Alexander Gallery, the room is filled with the sound of artist Dan Senn's breathing, recorded and played in a continuous loop. White garbage bags and sound are recuring pieces of Senn's artworks, this one is titled "Twisted Pairs Expanding."


The most recent exhibit in the Alexander Gallery has caused a stir. The sonic sculptor has some people scratching their heads in confusion, but artist Dan Senn says it takes some time to fully understand.

"Take a look," said Senn, during his lecture in the art center on Thursday, Feb. 12.

According to Senn, people often fail to spend enough time observing the artwork. Observing, in this case, does not mean only staring at the piece, but listening to the sound of Senn's breathing, whistling and the sound of the pumps he invented to inflate the bags.

The piece itself is of several twisted black pipes with white garbage bags on the end. The low frequency sounds actually inflate the bags, giving the effect that the pieces are breathing. This was an innovation based on an earlier installation of Senn's in Prague, which was just one part of a multi-piece exhibit, titled "Den Horniku," which took place in an old coal mine museum.

Senn's contributions to Czech exhibit were old rubber boots that hung from the ceiling. White garbage bags were placed at the boots' openings and "breathed" like the current piece at the Niemeyer.

The piece on display was built in November of this past year.

"It took several weeks," said Senn. "But, it was built based on previous works, so it's probably a couple years of work in the making."

Students buzzed about the exhibit after the lecture, saying it is unique.

Katie Spittle, a student who attended the lecture, found it interesting, although she couldn't hear the recorded noises.

"I could feel the vibrations," said Spittle.

Spittle also commented on how, visually, the piece was stimulating, and how it didn't rely on either the sound or the sight by itself.

During the lecture, Senn also talked about some of his past pieces. One such piece was called "Uncovered States." The piece includes one subwoofer speaker, wire, and sticks. The speaker generates low frequencies that bounce the wire and the sticks, which hit small metal disks, causing sound.

All of Senn's works involve sounds.

"I am first a composer," said Senn.

In addition to art, Senn composes and records classical music. Recently, he finished a large choral piece that debuted in New York City.

Senn travels across the nation giving lectures on his music and art. He offers advice to students, including mentioning in his lecture that Europe is a better environment for an artist.

"I also believe strongly in producing lots of art, even bad art" said Senn, another piece of advice for up and coming artists.

The exhibit is in the art gallery at the Niemeyer Center will be running throughout the rest of February and into March.

Because of the sound produced by the piece, the door is closed. If you wish to view the exhibit, please contact the Art Department. The extension is 2386.

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