Chime InGAMBIER, Ohio (September 26, 2012)
An audio art installation that set off alarm bells this week for some in the Kenyon community is intended to spur a reaction among listeners. Mission accomplished.
Digital notes that are changing throughout the week to include instrumental sounds and spoken words, replaced the familiar quarter-hour chimes at the Church of the Holy Spirit. Edek Sher '13 of Carmichael, California, created the project for an installation-art class assignment that Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger calls "intervention."
"Sounds more like a tone," Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said when he heard the opening round of digital noise. "Sounds fake." His reaction was not unusual around the campus.
"It's supposed to be something that people react to," Esslinger said. "The point is to provoke a new understanding ... but not in a mean way." Sher's work will be joined this week by six other public-art pieces, although those are sculptural in nature. "All of them are supposed to respond to the site that they are in and make meaning out of what is seen and heard," she said.
As Sher contemplated his project and walked the campus, he paid attention to the bells. "They are so pretty and a distinct aspect of Kenyon," he said. "We hear them all the time, but we don't really acknowledge them. I wanted to draw attention to them. People would either like the new sounds or miss the old sounds, the old bells. I knew we could get a reaction. You can't turn off your ears."
His "sound art" is called "Bells 2.0" and has drawn mixed responses. He did lower the volume during evening hours.
The bell-tower installation was approved by the Public Art Committee chaired by Natalie R. Marsh, director of the Graham Gund Gallery. The committee is focused on public access, logistics, and clean-up.
"I don't feel it's terribly disruptive," Marsh said. "People are stopping on the path. It's not something we're accustomed to. I think that's actually a good thing. It's something that has jarred us out of a pattern. That can be a positive.
"These kinds of exercises are important for our students to undertake, and we, as a community, should support them."
The tower has nine stationary bells and one tolling bell, all but one dating to the late 19th century. All are memorials to Kenyon men who fought in the Civil War, Kenyon historian Thomas P. Stamp said. The bells, more properly called chimes, are normally sounded by a machine but are played by hand in concert on Friday afternoons and during special occasions by the Kenyon College Pealers.
Look for these other art installation projects on campus:
"Communion," by Ellie Tomlinson '14 of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is a spatial and site-specific piece near the Church of the Holy Spirit that encourages interaction and allows a solitary and individually unique moment of isolation and connectivity.
"Transient," by Tristan Neviska '13 of Fredericktown, Ohio, can be found in the north foyer of the Olin Library and is a video feed that interacts with those who enter and leave.
"Safety," by Lana Dubin '14 of Ridgefield, Connecticut, features a group of men encircled by a handmade fence that separates them from the community on the Peirce Hall lawn during lunch.
"Devotion," by Matt Verticchio '13 of River Forest, Illinois, is a cinderblock that hangs in a wooden structure near the College Gates.
"Admissions," by Lauren Amrhein '13 of Mamaroneck, New York, is an elaborate cardboard confessional between Ransom Hall and the Church of the Holy Spirit that invites contributions from passers-by.
"Foundations," by Edith Willey '13 of Meadville, Pennsylvania, is a rustic wooden structure in front of Olin Library that explores basic ideas of shelter and sanctity.