Within chaotic urban environments, we seek mental isolation as a coping mechanism. Through isolation we can escape from the tension of surroundings to an internalized space of freedom. As we revisit this space over time, our mental barriers grow stronger in an attempt to preserve this internal place of serenity. Subway is an audio installation that examines this isolation, juxtaposing the dynamic sounds of a New York subway station with the vast, unconstrained desert.
Two subway benches sit back to back, isolated in the middle of the desert. Each bench contains 6 seats. 4 posts protrude from the ground, forming a square that is 20' in diameter around the subway bench. Each post is 4" in diameter and capped with a 12" speaker facing inward. A of a subway station continuously plays. With no one sitting on the bench, a surround sound audio recording of a subway station absent of people continuously plays. As more people begin to sit on the bench increases, the density of the crowd within the recording increases. In addition, to emphasize the feeling of a subway train arriving and departing, a subwoofer will be hidden within the base of the bench.
To create the dynamic crowd increase, six layers of audio were recorded in a NYC subway station, each containing their own level of crowd density. When the amount of people sitting on the bench increases, the audio transitionally increases the crowd’s density level. Controlling Subway is a small computer with custom software written in Pure Data. Connected to the computer is a multi channel audio card and an Arduino microprocessor. With the aid of piezo sensors, the Arduino allows the bench to detect how many people are sitting on the bench. A car battery is used to power the device and an audio amp for the speakers. These electronic components are be located at the base of the bench in a secured box.
2010 “Burning Man”, Black Rock City, NV (Grant Recipient)