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Collaborations, Current works, Sound Art

Mobile Section in Seattle

05.05.16 | Comment?

Rowland Ricketts
Norbert Herber
Indigo and sound

This installation will be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum 9 April – 9 October 2016. Thank you to Pam McClusky for brining our work to the west coast. The following text appears in the museum alongside the installation.

Standing inside this enclosure, you may think it is suggestive of being inside a gigantic vat of dye or a chamber for blue moods. It can be, but it has other associations that are not as obvious, derived from the artist’s efforts to enact a unique process of bringing indigo blue into focus.

The line of dried indigo leaves were grown a year ago by Rowland and Chinami Ricketts in Bloomington, Indiana, where fields of this annual plant have the humble appearance of basil with red and white flowers. The Ricketts harvest two indigo crops a year, using seeds of Persicaria tinctoria from Japan’s Tokushima Prefecture.   Tokushima has been a center for indigo cultivation, and continues to be the largest producer of composted indigo in Japan, just as it was 400 years ago.

Indigo dyed cloth creates an enclosure of stacked segments. Each panel has been dyed with indigo grown nearby and is the result of personal attention to every step of the process. Just as the color builds up over time through successive immersions in vats, so do the layers of meaning accumulate with the labor involved in forming the sections. Ricketts says the structure refers to grain bins, a common part of the Midwestern agricultural landscape. Inside this bin, instead of any material thing, like grain, there is a bin filled with something immaterial- color. The circular path is derived from the cycle of indigo farming and composting that takes a year to complete.

Sounds of indigo have come from an inventive array of sources. Some are from field recordings of the Ricketts work in the farm and studio, and include: harvesting, winnowing, vat stirring and dripping dye. Other sounds are synthesized from data-logging thermometers that recorded the temperature of decomposing indigo leaves, and weather patterns during the growing of the plant. Herber uses this data to create sonic textures and algorithmically organize playback in the galleries. Sounds become like the dye, bonding with the diaphanous material around it.

Suggestions for what you can do:

Walk about. Your passage through the gallery will trigger sensors that change the character of what you hear.

Listen to other sounds of indigo.   These aren’t meant to be taken literally, as documentation, but are suggestions of all the steps that have gone into the making of this installation. You might hear indigo seeds falling into a container, leaves being crushed, plants being stomped and winnowed, dye being stirred in a vat, cloth being rinsed, dye dripping, compost being turned.

Consider your role as a collaborator. Ricketts and Herber want you to consider the potential of expanding beyond indigo as a dyed cloth, or plants, but as a source of reflection with great value as process, as knowledge, and the connectedness of culture.

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