Arts & Culture

Visitors, sound part of the art in ‘Resonating Objects’

In “Head in the Sand,” artist Margaret Noble invites visitors to inhabit her sculpture.
In “Head in the Sand,” artist Margaret Noble invites visitors to inhabit her sculpture. Courtesy

“Resonating Objects,” an exhibition of sound combined with sculpture and video, doesn’t fit into a neat category of art. But it’s not difficult to describe.

“It’s fun,” said Nathan Barnes, coordinator of The Gallery at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, where the exhibit is on view through Oct. 21.

“Super fun!” agreed a visitor to the gallery, on the campus of South Puget Sound Community College.

Most of the pieces, by artist Margaret Noble of San Diego, are interactive, inviting lingering exploration.

“I Long to be Free From Longing” consists of lidded boxes inside an old suitcase. When a lid is opened, a sound begins. Visitors can listen to one at a time or layer them together. In “Records of Intimacy,” Noble has installed the light-activated sounds inside Victorian photo albums.

“Material Shrine for the New Class” consists of dangling objects from a globe to a Barbie doll. Wearing headphones, the visitor can gently squeeze each object to activate a sound.

‘What can art be?’ is a good question to pose to students — and to the larger community. If people are walking through the door thinking art is a drawing or a painting that’s rectilinear, this is probably going to blow their minds.

Nathan Barnes, coordinator of The Gallery at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts

After the exhibit opened last week, those who stopped in to the gallery were talking, laughing and listening to the sounds of birds chirping, a tea kettle’s whistle, chimes, heavy breathing and fireworks, plus some sounds that were more difficult to identify.

“That speaks to the idea of memory,” Noble said in a phone interview last week. “Different people remember the same event very differently.

“It’s not just about what the sound is; it’s about what memories does the sound evoke.”

Exhibiting art with sound is still new to many galleries, the artist said, which is part of the reason for the interactivity and for the delicate nature of the sounds.

It’s new for the college, Barnes said.

“Our mission is to program diverse exhibitions,” he said. “To my knowledge, we haven’t had an exhibit that’s addressed the aesthetics of sound so explicitly. That’s exciting.”

Noble’s path to becoming an artist was unconventional, too. Her interest in sound began with dance, with a desire to move with sound, and before she became an artist, she worked as a DJ in clubs.

“It was fun and exciting, but eventually, I felt limited by the form,” she said. She decided to change her focus and earned a master’s of fine arts degree in sound design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Noble did a lot of collaboration, creating sound for dance performances, videos and other visual art, then began creating sculptures and videos along with sound.

“I wanted the sound to inhabit the object — not just being in the same room with the object, but inhabiting the object,” she said. “I had to figure out how that could work.

“Anything where the sound is living in the piece is where I’m at now,” she said. “That’s what it’s evolved into.”

In “Head in the Sand,” she has those visiting the exhibit inhabit her sculpture, too. The sound begins when someone’s head enters a wooden box. The listener becomes a part of the sculpture.

It’s a different way to experience art, and “Resonating Objects” invites audiences to reconsider the nature of art, Barnes said.

 ‘What can art be?’ is a good question to pose to students — and to the larger community,” he said. “If people are walking through the door thinking art is a drawing or a painting that’s rectilinear, this is probably going to blow their minds.”

Resonating Objects

What: This exhibition of sculpture and sound by Margaret Noble of San Diego invites interaction.

Where: The Gallery at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia.

When: Reception 6-8 p.m. Friday (Sept. 23); exhibit runs through Oct. 21. The gallery is open from noon-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and by appointment.

Admission: Free.

Information: 360-596-5527, spscc.edu/gallery.

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