Peter Flemming: Instrumentation


April 27 – June 2, 2012
Opening on Friday April 27, 5pm-9pm

Project Description

All things have a natural resonant frequency. This intriguing idea suggests a baseline connection between just about everything, but I’ll keep to the physical for now. My old car would vibrate intensely when reaching certain speeds. Our bodies have resonant frequencies. As does the stapler on my desk, as do skyscrapers, bridges, tectonic plates…

Instrumentation is an electro-mechanical sound installation inspired by resonance. The gallery installation preserves a sense of the makeshift, having evolved from studio experiments, using a limited palette of tools and readily available materials. Spanning the two rooms of Skol, different aspects of the work are presented in each.

Unlikely loudspeakers improvised from buckets, drums, salvaged windows and hand-wound electromagnetic coils occupy the main room. These found-object resonators amplify the remainder of the installation situated in the back-room. Here, a plywood work-table serves as an acoustic transducer for electromagnetically activated piano wires, and as the main staging area for an assembly of machine ‘performers.’ Each lethargically performs a repetitive task, contributing to an endlessly fluctuating sound track of shimmering harmonics, sudden crescendos and arrhythmic beats.

By letting machines run the show, I hope to open up a temporary space for contemplation of the forces at work in the environment around us. Exploring the basic physical ‘magic’ of resonance, present within our everyday machines, structures and systems, reveals that we are subject to material laws that are fundamentally mysterious and outside of our absolute command. This elusive ‘magic’ is a worthwhile reminder that we are not in total control in a digital-technocratic world where total control seems to be a goal.

Artist Statement

I look at what I make as the electro-mechanical equivalents of short stories. Naturally, every good story needs some tension to keep it going. In my machinic ‘texts’, I try to create tension by intermixing different systems. Organic ones blend with technological ones, the old with the new, and the handmade with the machine-made. And rather than words, sentences and paragraphs, I use bolts, batteries, metal, and custom electronics. Mistakes and accidents frequently shape the course of my artwork. They typically occur when I have met some kind of technical or financial limitation, or some material quirk asserts itself contrary to my aims. After much hair pulling, occasionally I realize that the unintended behaviour is interesting in itself. I drop the original goal and pick up a new path, letting it lead me along instead of trying to bend it to suit pre-determined criteria. Knowing how to read these hidden signposts as they reveal themselves is a crucial part of my process.