The communicative sounds of New York City rats may not be the first thing one thinks of when they think art, but at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s new exhibit, “MediaLive: Subterranean,” curated by Maya Livio, visitors can hear just that.
The latest installments, as part of the seventh annual Boulder MediaLive festival, were crafted by a variety of diverse artists who fuse technology with art, creating thought-provoking pieces that the viewer can interact with firsthand.
For his piece “Urban Intonation,” Brian House set up custom ultrasonic microphones to record the sometimes high-pitch sounds of vermin in subway stations and streets. The amped-up sounds are projected through a hodgepodge of found megaphones that hang from a corner of BMoCA’s lobby.
“We’ve had super mixed reactions,” said Kiah Butcher, BMoCA’s visitor services lead and event coordinator. “Some find it super melodic and calming.”
Whether you find the tones soothing, like that of an orca, or find them off-putting, the unusual art brings the inner workings of an animal community regarded as pests to the forefront — perhaps shining light on humans’ preconceived notions of all things they are quick to categorize as superfluous, dangerous or unclean.
Certain pieces in the latest exhibit could easily be overlooked.
At BMoCA, and at another “secret” Boulder location, you will find generic-looking white table lamps. These deceptively ordinary pieces of home décor, titled “Belief Propagation,” built by performance artist Michelle Ellsworth, actually give off a password-free wi-fi signal. Once passersby connect to the network with their phone or laptop, a gallery of 22 performance art videos appears on their own personal device.
From a perturbed woman, with three legs, sitting in a chair against a muted mint green background to women playing an avant-garde game of bowling, the imagery proves bizarrely intriguing and slightly uncomfortable. There’s even one short film featuring people donning coats, but no real visible pants, merrily trekking through the snow carrying life-sized silver spoons. One hiker retreats to a wooden shed where she clicks away on a vintage typewriter that connects to a xylophone that creates music — which could take some viewers right back to childhood.
Rick Silva’s film work “Western Fronts” was inspired by the current administration’s stance on environmental issues — more specifically a leaked memo from the United States Department of the Interior that revealed plans to reduce protection for four national monuments. Tree-laden hills and red rock terrain is elegantly captured by overhead drones that make their way through Utah, Oregon and California.
Hypnotic and engaging, it’s as if the viewer is in a helicopter flying high above these magnificent vistas that are encumbered by a variety of centered changing black shapes. At times, attendees will gaze at a triangle, at others a circle, which give a glimpse into a jet-black desolate future.
Destruction and loss can also be found in the work of Francis Marion Moseley Wilson.
Oftentimes, we come across the remains of a not-so-fortunate squirrel on a busy stretch of highway. Taxidermist Francis Marion Moseley Wilson originally created an app to locate roadkill that she could track down and then stuff. Another art project spawned from this vision. Folks that came in contact with the deceased animal would fill out a questionnaire of sorts via this app.
Now, the app users’ thoughts and experiences can be explored through a database that museum visitors can easily navigate with a click of a mouse. Detailed information about deceased foxes and pigeons illuminate a screen — bringing up the themes of mortality and perhaps our own life cycle.
“It’s very interesting to see what people’s reaction to death is,” said Butcher. “This work is compiled in a more emotional sense, asking, ‘what’s your thought and viewpoint?’”
“Premium Connect,” a film project by French video artist Tabita Rezaire exposes non-Western and non-human communication. She creatively explores the spiritual connections to ancestors and highlights the divine practice of Ifa, practiced by the Yorba people of West Africa, that is said to have similar components to that of computer science. Museum visitors can strap on headphones to hear the narration that even features Laurence Fishburne in his role as “Morpheus” from “The Matrix.” Like an ever-changing collage, filled with diverse visuals, this piece will likely make viewers reflect on their place in the universe.
As part of MediaLive’s month-long exhibition of media installations and digital performances, workshops and events, on Monday, BMoCA will host “Fungal Technologies Workshop: Mushroom Networks & Sustainable Mycelium Objects.” Participants will learn about forging different local species and also get hands-on experience using mycelium — the branching structures found underneath the mushroom — to craft sustainable materials. Attendees will leave with starter kits to make their very own fungal notebook.
The workshop, which coincides with Boulder Startup Week 2019, will also explore ways in which mushroom underground networks facilitate plant communication.
While “MediaLive: Subterranean” will be up through May 27, a closing performance and reception will take place at 6:30 p.m. on May 22. The event, which will feature free Avery Brewing beer, will be reminiscent of an intimate music listening party. The museum will screen a performance, from experimental electronic music duo Matmos, whose focus will be on songs constructed from sounds made from plastics.
If you goWhat: MediaLive: SubterraneanWhen: Through May 27Where: BMoCA, 1750 13th St., BoulderCost: $2, children under 12 free, free admission from 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays during the Boulder Farmers Market, free every Saturday all yearMore info: bmoca.org