“A Brief Elaboration of a Tube”Duo Sound/Light Installation Surprises
The sensory experience of A Brief Elaboration of a Tube begins before even entering the space -- and stays with you long afterwards. As I descend the staircase leading into Huff Gallery, I begin to discern a low hum. Questions regarding the nature of this sound fill my mind: Do I hear a machine running? Is there a train passing nearby? I quickly realize that this is Aaron Rosenblum’s contribution to A Brief Elaboration of a Tube -- an immersive soundscape and compliment to a large installation by Letitia Quesenberry. Immediately enraptured and engulfed by the shifting hues of her work, its uncertain depth, and the muted rumble of sound, long-forgotten memories come rushing back to me. The strength of Quesenberry and Rosenblum’s collaboration lies in its ambiguity and the opportunity it gives viewers to think, remember, and feel.
A Brief Elaboration of a Tube is simultaneously simple and complex. While the exhibition consists of only the titular piece, the room’s dim lighting immediately draws me towards the immense tunnel of shifting colors. Layers of plastic fitted with LED lights give the appearance of a tunnel that seems much deeper than the space it occupies; notably, these layers culminate in one of Quesenberry’s signature light boxes. She utilizes ordinary materials and technologies, but arranges them in a way that provides a remarkable, dreamlike experience. The layers pulse and change colors independently, sometimes syncing up with Rosenblum’s soundtrack. His contribution seems peculiar at first, reminiscent of sound waves captured in space. Upon further scrutiny, one begins to notice recognizable sounds: a train horn, the buzzing of insects, et cetera. As I sit on the floor amongst odd silver beanbags, my brain begins to fill in the blanks between sight, sound, and memory. This connection between art, viewer, sense, and recollection is the greatest strength of A Brief Elaboration of a Tube.
By rejecting narrative in their work, Quesenberry and Rosenblum allow viewers to draw connections between the artwork and their own associations, memories, and perceptions. They work towards what Quesenberry calls “the cultivation of aesthetic inscrutability.” Inherently devoid of cultural or personal associations, the sensory experience of A Brief Elaboration of a Tube is only given meaning through the viewer’s presence. For instance, the blue and green tones may remind the viewer of a time on the lake as a child; similarly, a viewer could recall a memory from an auditory cue. As the artists say in their statement, “While individual elements of the light and sound patterns repeat, they are constantly rearranged in relation to one another, creating nearly endless recombinations.” Moods or feelings can also be derived from the combination of color and sound, further delineating one’s perception of the piece. Ambiguity is a crucial component of Quesenberry and Rosenblum’s collaboration -- they provide audiences with a framework for experience, but offer no conclusion.
A Brief Elaboration of a Tube can be difficult, but is still important, to analyze. Perhaps this is due to the experiential nature of the installation; it is a living, breathing thing that is not fully activated until a person steps into the space. How do we critically engage with an experience, particularly one that stirs the viewer’s deeply personal emotions and memories? Perhaps it is best to fully open ourselves to Art’s affective dimensions. As Simon O’Sullivan argues in the Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking Art Beyond Representation, “Indeed, art might well have a representational function (after all, art objects, like everything else, can be read) but art also operates as a fissure in representation. And we, as spectators, as representational creatures, are involved in a dance with art, a dance in which -- through careful manoeuvres -- the molecular is opened up, the aesthetic is activated, and art does what is its chief modus operandi: it transforms, if only for a moment, our sense of our ‘selves’ and our notion of our world.”
I normally balk at artists who leave meaning in the hands of the viewer. Quesenberry and Rosenblum have, however, done so tactfully, appropriately, and engagingly. They give the viewer just enough to cultivate a phenomenon and encourage a subtle type of viewer participation. One must find their own meaning and connection to the piece. Ultimately, Quesenberry and Rosenblum ask viewers to carefully consider meaning and perception in their encounters with art. Like any good installation piece, I can do no justice to A Brief Elaboration of a Tube through description or photography. It is an experience that demands first-hand observation, a bit of patience, and an open mind.
A Brief Elaboration of a Tube is on display at Huff Gallery until February 11.
Huff Gallery is located at 853 Library Lane, Louisville, KY 40203 and open from 7:30a-10p Monday - Thursday, 7:30a-6:30p Friday, 8a-5p Saturday, and 1-8p Sunday.
- Letitia Quesenberry
- Aaron Rosenblum
- O'Sullivan, Simon. "The Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking Art Beyond Representation." Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 6, no. 3 (2001): 125-135.
Kevin Warth, Contributor to Ruckus