audio, galvanized pail, mixed media
10 3/4"x10 3/4"x 9 1/4"
From the essay, The Emptiness of Presence and Absence .
Against the Wall was conceived of absence. The isolation from friends and family. The aloneness of the studio. The gap in memory. And, the vacancy of the gallery. These all conjured a strong sense of longing for the past, for the absent. I found Susan Sontag’s and Rosalind Krauss’ perspectives of absence and presence to resonate strongly with my recent experiences and body of work. Each in their own way address the notion of emptiness from a non-polarizing point of view. Krauss relates sculpture to emotions or, middle-ground, which she calls ‘the expanded field’, siting it somewhere in-between the relationship of not-landscape and not- architecture.1 While Sontag challenges the dipole relationship of beauty and ugliness, and instead asks, what is ‘the beautiful in ugly?’2 As the studio became personified through my modes of production, I too realized that absence only existed in the presence of the present. It was through my need to survive as artist and individual and the resourceful and refined exchanges between materials, objects, and the body I discovered this interplay; and through an emptiness, gave presence to my work.
The vacuum of my studio offered the first clues to understanding emptiness. Over the course of the semester it was through my keen fixation of its deafening silence, I realized that even the silence held sound. Sontag suggests, ‘as long as a human eye is looking there is always something to see’.3 I began to hear all around me, perceiving the studio no longer as empty and silent, but full of aural ambience: the cadence of the broken clock, the muffle of a distant table saw, and the wheeze of air pressures between rooms. The emptiness of the studio had been conceived by the presence of its sounds, whispering to me its relevance as material. Sound became the material motivator to create an immersive body of work. David Lynch often employs this presence in his work, calling it ‘room tone’, the sound that’s heard in silence.4 My studio’s room tone informed my practice, transitioning towards the spatial and emotional narrations of Against the Wall.
‘I wanted to stuff time back into the objects I was making with my hands’-Robert Morris 5
Sound was presented to me as room tone, as well as a product of my own repetitive processes. Heuristically wrapping personal artifacts in my studio not only formed art-objects, but wove original soundscapes throughout the silent emptiness of my space (see fig. 1). Around this same time, I was introduced to Robert Morris’ series of works he referred to as ‘Object Sculpture’. Although I related to many of these works for their ability to contain and embody, as well as their relationships to inanimate objects, I was most drawn to Box with the Sound of Its Own Making (see fig. 2). This work intrigued me as the recorded audio of the object’s making bolstered its meaning, memorialized its past, and embodied the object with his presence. This provoked me to begin audio documentation of my own work, in order to personify my presence, layer meaning, and work towards the immersive experience of Seep.
Figure 1 Keith Kaziak, Untitled, 2020, mixed media, 22"x14"x6"
The rhythmic dripping and repetition of Seep acted as the transition between the threshold of presence and emptiness. Sound was used to propel the viewer from one room and into the next, wrapping them in its spatial and emotional narratives. The material of sound was used like a cinematic trope. The steady sound of dripping water saturated the site with layered meaning and metaphors. These audio personifications of space evoked emotions affixed to life and death, emptiness and fullness, and memory and loss. Seep also explored other cinematic effects like anempathetic sound. This refers to sound’s indifference to a specific emotion, and instead as a juxtaposition. It’s often used following a violent act or death of a character, and typically involves the noise of a machine, the sound of a radio, or in this case, the dripping of water, to continue after the event, as if nothing has happened 6 (see fig. 3). The emptiness of this sound percolated throughout the space, flooding the exhibition with an immersive and foreboding quality.
Figure 2, Robert Morris, Box with the Sound of Its own Making, 1961, wood and sound recording 9 3/4"x9 3/4"x9 3/4", Seattle Art Museum
1 Krauss, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, 1979, 36
2 Sontag, Daedalus, Fall 2002, 210
3 Sontag, The Aesthetics of Silence, 1969, 10
4 Lynch and Rodley, Interview, I See Myself: Eraserhead, 2014
5 Weiss, Robert Morris: Object Sculpture, 2013, 13
6 Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, 2019, 8
Chion, Michel., author. Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, Columbia University Press, 2019. DOI: https://doi- org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/10.7312/chio18588
Krauss, Rosalind. "Sculpture in the Expanded Field." October 8 (1979): 31- 44. Accessed March 28, 2021. doi:10.2307/778224.
Lynch, David and Rodley, Chris. “I See Myself: Eraserhead.” The Criterion Collection. Faber and Faber, September 16, 2014. https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/3295-i-see-myself-eraserhead.
Sontag, Susan. "An Argument about Beauty." Daedalus 134, no. 4 (2005): 208-13. Accessed March 28, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20028023.
Sontag, Susan, 1933-2004. Styles Of Radical Will. New York :Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969.
Weiss, Jeffrey S., author, interviewer. Robert Morris : Object Sculpture, 1960- 1965. New Haven : New York :Yale University Press ; in association with Castelli Gallery, 2013.