THE PASEO, A FESTIVAL BRINGING THE ARTS OF INSTALLATION, PERFORMANCE, AND PROJECTION TO THE STREETS OF TAOS, IS COMING UP ON SEPTEMBER 23 & 24, FOR ITS THIRD YEAR OF CELEBRATING ‘UNHANGABLE ART.’ LIVETAOS AND KNCE ARE PARTNERING WITH THE PASEO TO BRING YOU GREAT INTERACTIVE COVERAGE BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE EVENT!
THIS SERIES PROFILES SOME OF THE MANY FABULOUS ARTISTS BRINGING THE PASEO TO LIFE FOR A THIRD YEAR.
I sat down with Adrienne Adar, an L.A. based audio visual artist whose work explores the relationship between human perception, sound, and nature. Her piece at the PASEO this year is entitled Listening Trees of Taos. And look out Taos, it’s mind blowing!
Adrienne and I met on the plaza last Monday during a cloudy monsoon-esque afternoon. Her first question to me after introductions was, “What’s the weather normally like here at the end of September?” To which I replied with the classic Taos, “Um, anyone’s guess, it could be hot, it could be cold, it could rain, snow, who knows?” But once we got down to it, I realized that what Adrienne was really interested in was whether it would be windy.
That’s because what Adrienne does is audiolize (yep, it’s a term, think visualize except with ears and sound instead of eyes and sight) trees. You heard me — trees! Not just trees, actually; primarily her work has been with succulents and smaller potted house plants. But for her PASEO installation, she’ll be audiolizing one of the large cottonwoods on the Plaza for our town’s listening pleasure.
So what does this all mean? After Adrienne and I talked for a few minutes, and I asked her that very question, she took a very simple microphone-looking sensory sphere out of her car along with a small orange amplifier, and we went on the hunt! We were looking for trees or shrubs or vegetation that we could hear. And since I’ve kept you on the hook long enough: no, you will not be hearing amplified voices mysteriously emanating from a tree’s understory saying things like “Pleased to meet you. My name’s Herbert. What’s yours?” What you will hear amplified are the vibrations that a plant experiences when rustled by the wind or touched by human hands.
Flash to now: Adrienne and I have found a humble looking sedge grass type plant minding its own business, taking in the comings and goings of the downtown action. She pops the microphone sensor into the center of the plant, flips on the amp & says, “Listen….”
We wait, I’m patient, we wait, I wonder if I might be slightly hard of hearing, we wait — the wind stirs the fronds of the grass and a sound like waves crashing comes out of the amplifier.
We sit down, and Adrienne starts moving her fingers across the top of the plant, caressing and shaking, gently poking and prodding. The amplifier goes crazy, it sounds like an earthquake; crumbling buildings and cracking asphalt. I watch Adrienne’s hands as she lovingly touches the plant. “It’s oddly violent, isn’t it?” She says with a wondering smile. I nod and think wow, plants are always so stoic, who knew this was even happening?
And that’s where the heart of Adrienne’s work appears. We have a long conversation about how plants, especially ornamentals, are looked at as objects of art; put it in one corner of the house and if it doesn’t look right move it upstairs or to the kitchen. It’s an ornament — but it’s alive. Adrienne’s experimenting with this in her audiolizations. It’s an investigatory project and a conversation that draws on polar opposites like seen vs. unseen, sound vs. sight, and internal vs. external. The experience happens when those opposites collide, like a silent house plant suddenly exploding into sound vibrations.
I ask Adrienne how she creates these amazing sounds out of the vibrations. There’s another soft smile, “It’s sort of a trade secret,” she says. “I craft them myself.” Adrienne will scout a tree or plant and then craft a sensor to best pick up its individual vibrations. It’s important to her that the sensors are analog, and that what comes out of the plant is really purely from their own vibrations.
The Plaza tree that Adrienne chooses will be one of the largest plants she’s ever audiolized. She’ll be up on scaffolding attaching the sensors to the leaves. In addition to the cottonwood there will also be other plant “listening stations” around town.
Adrienne’s work is truly something to hear. And, for someone who always hopes her houseplants will one day talk back, it’s an ear-opening step in the right direction.
If you’re interested in more of Adrienne’s work, she’s currently working on succulent symphonies. You can check out some of their wild and crazy sounds here.
Learn more about The Paseo at www.paseoproject.org, and save the date: September 23 & 24, 2016. Stay tuned to LiveTaos and KNCE 93.5FM, www.truetaosradio.com, for ongoing interviews and coverage!