Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design
9045 Lincoln Boulevard
January 28 - April 16
What does it take to listen? Like looking and seeing, the difference between hearing and listening is significant—the former is a rote sensory activity, the latter a cognitive and affective process of absorption and integration. Listening, and the architectural conditions that might support it, is the focus of Anna Craycroft’s Tuning the Room in Variable Frequencies and Tuning the Room in Constant Amplitudes, both 2017, which make up her site-specific installation. Of the two contrasting spaces, the first is light and airy—metallic vinyl-tape murals of abstract sound waves line the walls, and three metal benches demarcate a basic gathering space. The second space is darker and much quieter because it is populated with acoustic panels, which have been dyed a range of dark grays. The subtle intersections of the marks of dye optically signal that this is a space to pay attention in: It is not simply a soundproof room plunked in a gallery. Large triangular tiles dot the interior walls of this acoustically modulated space and can easily be transformed into ad-hoc seating, once the Velcro-attached forms are pulled from the wall.
For those who know Craycroft’s previous projects (many of which engage pedagogical design), this is a familiar move. Indeed, the tile/seat is an ingenious bit of design precisely because the artist stresses that the room is made to be activated with events, classes, readings, and the like. Her installation melds two arenas of contemporary museological practice––exhibitions and programming––which, although they’ve become increasingly codependent, are rarely integrated in foundational ways. Tuning the Room models what this might look and sound like and, in doing so, poses particular challenges to the way we perceive our surroundings and subjects within it.