Kevin Schlei + Lynn Tomaszewski
Inside/Outside: Lynn Tomaszewski & Kevin Schlei
Drams, Whits, Scintillas
April 17-June 5, 2011
Drams, Whits, Scintillas, a multimedia installation incorporating video, sound and drawing by Lynn Tomaszewski and Kevin Schlei, brings the garden into the gallery and spreads back out onto the grounds. Tomaszewski begins with video of visitors walking in the sculpture garden and recontextualizes it as part of a projected generative drawing in the gallery, and Schlei creates an outdoor multi-channel sound piece in dialogue with Tony Smith’s The Wandering Rocks (1967-1969). As Tomaszewski and Schlei reintroduce often overlooked elements of daily life into the gallery and sculpture garden, they reframe and reanimate these spaces, allowing us to see them anew.
The video, sound and drawings in the exhibition explore flocking or swarming behavior, and suggest the potential and perils inherent in group action. According to the artists, “Flocks are a good way to think about the individual and the group simultaneously. The title of the exhibition refers to the very small and incidental things that make up larger and seemingly more significant things.”
As in much of her recent work, Tomaszewski begins with video of mundane behavior and shifts the context to infuse the quotidian with both longing and anxiety. “The rhythms of daily life play out under the suggestion of ominous consequences,” she notes. In the gallery installation, figures walking in the garden approach and mirror viewers watching the projected image.
Tomaszewski’s interest in the way technology influences perception is reflected in two series of drawings in the gallery, one white and one black. The drawings explore the human desire for knowledge and understanding, as well as the absurdity and even futility of that pursuit. The white drawings of swarms are taken from YouTube videos of flocking starlings. The black drawings began with images of supernovae from the Hubble telescope. For Tomaszewski, the drawings delineate the perceptual distance between the actual event and the viewer: a distance first eradicated by technology and then re-created by it.
The sounds of Drams, Whits, Scintillas stretch between flux and stasis, personal and indirect. Like a flock, the sounds alternate between periods of ambience, excitation and stillness. Schlei has anchored his outdoor work to Tony Smithʼs sculpture, allowing Smithʼs minimalist quiet to penetrate the aural landscape. The highly reflective surfaces of the Smith grouping and the multiple sound channels encourage viewers to move around the work, altering their relationship to the array of sound. Both the three- dimensional and four-dimensional pieces reference the structure and patterns inherent in their conception: taking the five separate pieces of Smith’s sculpture as a starting point, Schlei has organized his sounds in five-note clusters and groups of five. Within the gallery, the sound is restless, while outside the emphasis is on stillness. A computer algorithm creates currents that push sound particles the way the wind disperses a pile of leaves, or the way a flock of birds explodes out of a tree. It is also a system of frozen moments: snapshots created in the mind to hold a place or time. “These moments are connections between temporal locations,” observes Schlei. “They make us confront our own connections with the places we visit.”
About the Artists
Lynn Tomaszewski's award-winning work has been shown in solo and group shows throughout the United States and Europe. Her paintings, drawings, installations, and video work explore how technology alters perception. Large groups of figures are presented as a unified field and in this way function as visual field theory rather than portraiture. Tomaszewski’s work is in the public collections of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Center for Contemporary Art in Sacramento, California. She is a professor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Kevin Schlei composes electronic and acoustic music that plays with sounds through systems of manipulations. His works include live algorithmic pieces in multichannel environments, interactive installations, and custom software instruments. Recent works include Close Up Distance, an ambisonic surround sound piece that pushes the illusion of multi-space shifting, and Languid Flow of Imaginary Vapors, where saxophones melt with wispy synthesized tones to create a fog of sound colors. He is a founding member of the Milwaukee Laptop Orchestra (MiLO) and he has exhibited his installation work and custom software throughout Milwaukee. He has also collaborated with dance and theater organizations such as the Milwaukee Ballet, Danceworks, and Milwaukee Shakespeare Company, and presented his work in the Spark, BEAF and NIME festivals.
Schlei teaches computer music at the UWM Peck School of the Arts where he is the Electro-Acoustic Music Center Technical Director. He also develops software instruments for the iPhone and iPad, including Invisible Drum Set, under the developer name Bit Shape. His latest research into multi-touch instrument technology was presented at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression conference in Sydney, Australia.