Frank Spigner

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Installation

Through my installations, I create a visual and sonic language drawing equally from traditional sculptural techniques and from contemporary aesthetics utilizing analog and digital technologies. Many of my electronic audio-visual installations involve interactivity and incorporate elements of synthesized sounds, field recordings, or sound sculpture, it uses light, including laser diode modules, LEDs, and video projectors, objects such as electromechanical devices, and other visual mixed media.

A major influence in the way I think of interactive installation and kinetic sculpture is the piece, The Way Things Go, by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. I’m interested in creating ‘mechanisms’ in which electricity, physical movement, and various forms of energy are constantly transforming via transducers and sensors in real time, allowing interactivity and the controlled introduction of noise at each stage, often employing crude, yet effective analog systems. I try to keep my process and methodologies as transparent as possible. I never mystify or obscure parts of my work or process and I never decorate. Every component that I introduce into a piece has an important purpose serving the whole work. Much of the time, the aesthetic impact of my work arises out of the sheer functionality of the piece.

Another theme that appears in much of my installation work is the idea of creating a continuous spectrum in the medium and senses that are engaged in the viewer. If for instance, an installation involves the use of steel sculptures being acoustically driven by transducers, allowing for the transmission of sonic resonances throughout the space, I will emphasize the relationship between the form and proportion of the structure with the sound it is producing, and from that, I might derive a system for how I could set up lights or some other component in the installation. In other words, I create a system where one medium picks up where another leaves off. I’m influenced in the way I use electronics from such artists as Phillip Stearns, Nam June Paik, Ed Osborn, and the aesthetics and artists associated with such electronic arts festivals and organizations as Bent Festival and Dorkbot, as well as the multimedia works of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Mary Lucier, and the sound installations by Max Neuhaus. Sarah Sze’s approach to improvising with materials and her sense of scale and proportion, as well as James Turrell and Robert Irwin’s use of light and color has influenced my installation work.

Prototype IV

This is a kinetic sculpture/sound installation that incorporates the use of electromechanical devices to acoustically drive strings on a metal sound sculpture. The sounds from the sculpture are amplified and then sent to piezo transducers on a gong and on a resonant sculpture made of saw blades. There is also analog circuitry mounted on the wall which synthesizes electronic sounds. As a video piece is projected on the wall, the intensity and movement of light from the projector modulates the frequency and timbre material of  the light sensitive circuitry. The synthesized sounds and the resonances from the sound sculptures are then mixed and sent to speakers which are mounted on the wall.

bronxartspace installation

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bronxartspace installation in progress

Setting up

Prototype III

This installation involved mounting electronic circuitry on the wall of the gallery, essentially turning a section of the wall into a circuit board. The circuitry, which included several oscillators and filters were constantly being manipulated by photoresistors which would change the circuit, and the sound being produced, by the intensity of light being directed into the circuitry. A video piece was then projected onto the wall which had been transformed with circuitry. The result was an interactive system where the movement, space, intensity, and duration of the video projection, and to a lesser extent, the ambient lighting of the art space, would constantly manipulate the sounds being synthesized in real-time.

glitch installation

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Prototype II

In this installation, I experimented with several ideas regarding the use of light and sound to change the way we perceive space. I gutted the ceiling, removing and cluttering the ceiling tiles as a way of changing the architecture of the room and to extend the height of the ceiling in certain places. I hid a light in the ceiling on top of a tile so that the light would illuminate the uncovered spaces in the ceiling, accenting the alterations I’ve made to the space. I lit candles which sat raised on a pedestal which was surrounded by pieces of colored glass that were suspended from the ceiling and would cause rays of colored lights to shine across the room as the pieces of glass slowly rotated from the heat of the flames and the movement of people in the room. Also hanging from the ceiling were bronze pieces that I finished with a reflective surface, but had slight variations in grain pattern from grinding or sanding, color, amount of firestain, etc. as a way of changing the quality of light reflection off of the sides of the pieces. The piece also involved the use of a laser which was focused at the corner of the room. I built three specially made metal incense holders designed to carry the smoke from the incense and focus it in certain ways to reveal the laser beam above it. In the corner of the room that the laser was pointed at, I created a web-like sculpture made of steel wire that was built into the walls. It was illuminated with the light from several candles underneath it and were built with contact mics attached to the wires. The mics carried the electrical signal to a power amplifier, which was hidden inside the ceiling, and then to a large speaker cone which I had suspended from a cord attached to a pipe far past the ceiling tiles, embedded in the maze of pipes and vents in the guts of the ceiling.

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Prototype I

This was an installation where I had either very small mirrors, laser diode modules, or photoresistors manipulating parameters in homemade oscillator circuits mounted on the walls or attached to metal stands which were placed throughout the space. The laser beams reflected off of the mirrors around the room ultimately lined up with the photoresistors. All the elements of the installation were lined up extremely precisely so that the constant ambient mechanical and acoustic vibrations in the space were revealed as a constant fluctuation in frequency and were also amplified visually by the fluttering movements of the laser shown against the walls of the darkened room. The environment was aligned and focused in such a way that walking throughout the room, jumping, and pushing on the walls altered the sonic atmosphere. In addition, when people moved throughout the space, they would interrupt the paths of the lasers causing a changes in timbre and frequency. I also used shaped and polished sheet steel and other metals to refract the light against the walls of the room. The installation also consisted of electrode contacts made of cut up sheet steel and unprinted copper-clad circuit board which were mounted on the wall. These used a circuit I built that allowed various glitch artifacts to sound when random connections using the electrode contacts were formed. The circuit was designed in such a way that the human body would be used to complete the circuit and then the electronic output would be sent through an amplifier and then sent to a string of small speakers hanging on the wall.

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Setting up 1

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Setting up 2

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