Sound Scene Installation: Glass Rope (2/4)
This summer, we exhibited an interactive installation of Material Feels, titled Conversations with the Material World, as a part of Sound Scene, at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. The work features four sculptures, each accompanied by a narrated soundscape designed with the material, maker and process in mind. The piece features queer, nonbinary artists in celebration of the queer, nonbinary nature of the material world around us.
This episode is second and in a mini series of four soundscapes exhibited at Sound Scene; this one features the soundscape designed for a glass sculpture by Deborah Czeresko.
I ask you to get a piece of glass within reach because this installation is all about rebuilding trust in our relationships with the world around us through touch. Anything made of glass that means something to you, or feels nice in your hands – and hold it while you listen. A window you like to sit by or look out of, or a favorite drinking glass works; it doesn’t need to be fancy. Oh, and if you can arrange listen with a friend, that’s even better.
Deborah Czeresko, Catherine Monahon, Elizabeth de Lise; glass, voice & sound
Pick up the glass sculpture in front of you. I know, you’re in a museum and usually that’s…frowned upon. It’s fine, you can touch it.
Feel the weight of it.
Rotating it, follow the slopes with your fingertips; slip a finger into the loop at the end. Try a few, to see which one fits the curvature best.
It’s round and soft like flesh but hard and strong like bone…
Glass asks us to believe that two things can be true at once.
I am strong and vulnerable,
I am chaotic and stable,
I am commonplace and magical.
Look through the piece at the space around you; it creates six twisted windows.
At the right angle, with the right background, you can see yourself, too. Try to keep track of where one version of you goes as you rotate the object along its spiral.
Bring the piece really close to your eyes to try and see where the glass embraces itself: is it possible to distinguish the two sections from one another? Look straight into the curved base. At just the right angle, you can see pools and eddies where the glass was once red hot and flowing.
Glass is an amorphous solid: it cools so quickly that the molecules do not have time to get in formation. They are dispersed in a disorganized way, and the electrons end up so that they do not have the capacity to absorb light, and so,
light passes through, bending.
Hold the piece up to a light source in the room; turn it to change the way illumination flows through.
Place it back down on the podium: is there a shadow?
Shadows teach us about objects: they help us understand where a thing ends and another begins.
But glass shadows shape-shift, because of the way the light travels through; the object generates so much more than its shape indicates.
There are more angles inside of me than you can perceive.
“Transparent” means easy to perceive or detect.
Is this object transparent by that definition?
Deborah and her assistant Jeffery have stretched a single piece of glass back over itself into a twisted embrace.
This knot of frozen liquid feels otherworldly, but it is of this world; it’s all around us. We just often see through it.
Do I only ever appear visible to you when I shatter?
When I am not serving a purpose, what am I?
I see a flowing, glowing film unique to the world this object creates. Unique to the room it is in, and the person holding it.
Think of that one window where you’ve spent a lot of time.
What pulls you there?
Is it for the light?
Or to watch for someone to come home?
Do you go there to sort out your thoughts?
Or to watch thunderstorms cross the sky?
When you press your hand against the glass of this window, is it warm from sunlight?
Or is it cold, with condensation growing at the edges?
Four windows in a living room, facing east. We lived on top of a hill, a swooping field lined with a stone wall and a row of trees at the base. Sunrises blazed through those four windows. I would sit by them and read, looking up to watch deer grazing or crows landing.
I could also see the moon and stars when I couldn’t sleep; pressing my face so close that my breath would add clouds to the sky, showing me my own face in the dark.
These windows are four changing paintings; sunlit bookends for the beginnings and the ends of days.
I see the same light glowing from the glass rope in front of us:
Our collective glass memories, melted down and twisted into a portal; hundreds of thousands of reflections and mirrors at the microscopic level, spiraling:
The corners of spiders’s lives,
dents from birds beaks seeking lovers,
the smell of breakfast on the inside and
fresh rain on the out;
other hands pressed against the surface, too,
before I was born,
the windows watch my mother and brother play on the living room floor;
for thirty years they watch visitors walk past to ring the doorbell,
they echo laughter from the dinner table
And vibrate with big band music from the turntable.
Strangers look out of these windows now,
Same hill, same light, new breath.
As you move the piece and look through it,
Your memories and reflections are in motion, bent, but still true.
Working with molten glass demands movement, decisions, and communication.
Glass forms like this would not exist without a bond of trust between glass artists.
You cannot do this alone.
In the hotshop, glass artists can’t touch their material; their tools, and their words, become extensions of those hands.
Your left hand is a lathe, constantly rotating the glass to maintain the form; your right hand is the tool, shaping, trimming, pushing, pressing.
And your hands are talking to one another, and you are in a constant call and response with your colleagues;
The glass is cooling and heating rapidly, constantly,
Everything is chatter and movement and motion until –
Special thanks to Elizabeth de Lise, the sound designer for this project and the associate producer of Material Feels for the past two and a half years. Thank you to the team at Sound Scene for giving us a chance to display this work; it was so meaningful and affirming to watch people engage with each sculpture, immersed in the soundscapes and connected with themselves.
And thank you, Material Feels listener, for sharing some of your time and brainspace with me. I hope you continue to make time to engage with materials while leaning into your creative impulses.
Luv u byyyyyye