[ Project status: Completed ]
Intangible Effects (no. 1) is an interactive installation that enables viewers to explore the soundscape of Seattle’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood. It was commissioned by the Frye Art Museum, for the Moment Magnitude [Mw] exhibition.
Yesler Terrace is a public housing development in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood. Built between 1941-1943, it was Washington State’s first public housing development, and the first racially integrated public housing development in the United States. It is by all accounts a vibrant community and one of Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods. Earlier this year, Seattle City Council approved a plan to demolish Yesler Terrace to make way for new, mixed-income development – a controversial plan necessitating the displacement of Yesler Terrace’s approximately 1200 residents.
To realize this project, a 7-week workshop was held at the Yelser Community Center for Seattle youth aged 14-17. Participants collected field recordings, documented performances, and conducted interviews with Yesler Terrace residents. Audio pieces were then selected to represent daily life in the neighborhood and residents’ concerns about its uncertain future. A series of sound boxes was constructed to “house” the sounds. By interacting with the boxes, visitors to the installation are able to explore the Yesler Terrace soundscape, and to create their own, ephemeral compositions.
[Installation images will be forthcoming]
Here are some of the sounds included in the installation:
- Flute, 11/14/12
- Walking in Amarech Mehari’s garden, 11/14/12
- Helicopter, 11/14/12
- Interview (excerpt), 11/14/2012
- Mesob Restaurant, 11/19/12
- Interviews (montage), 11/16/12
- Yesler Way at night, 11/21/12
- Charles Parrish carving alabaster 11/13/12
- Percussion class, 11/8/12
- Playground, 11/14/12
- Construction materials (Broadway), 10/17/12
- Seattle Hair Salon and Beauty Supply, 11/21/12
- Beverly Mendheim plays valiha, 11/5/2012
- Walk Button, 10/17/12
Our intention in undertaking this project was to foster creative exploration of the urban environment, at a moment when public engagement seems simultaneously urgent and maddeningly ineffectual. Focusing on sound serves to shift emphasis from the relatively static vernacular of architectural form that has dominated public discussion of the Yesler Terrace redevelopment effort. IE#1 oriented attention instead towards the neighborhood as lived experience, approaching urban space as literally and figuratively vibrating with human activity. In so doing, the project conceptualized the neighborhood’s character not as a collection of buildings, but as arising through the activities of its inhabitants. Our aims were to encourage critical reflection on the meaning and character of neighborhood life, and hopefully, to offer our young participants a means to understand and articulate value for themselves and to the city at large.
Concept and production: Tad Hirsch
Project coordination: Laura O’Quin
Fabrication: John Martin
Production Assistance: Mike Fretto, Kari Gaynor
Intangible Effects (no. 1) is supported by a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission, with funding – in part – by the Wallace Foundation.