‘The Tuba Thieves’ at SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery

Alison O’Daniel Explores Imagery and Sound

Courtesy Photo

Sound is the main character in one of the most immersive films you’ll experience this fall. Alison O’Daniel’s NO MA T H EMA T I C AL LOGIC, on view at SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery and curated by Gallery Director Sarah Cunningham, beautifully explores the relationship between imagery and sound through sculpture and film.

The heart of the exhibition is O’Daniel’s ongoing feature-length film project, The Tuba Thieves. Begun in 2013, the film was first inspired by a spate of tuba thefts from several high-school marching bands in Los Angeles. Slowly unfolding through chapters of nonlinear narratives, some of which are based on real events while others are fiction, the film is a collaborative amalgam of vignettes that are as striking visually as they are sonically.

In one scene, the artist recreates the premiere of John Cage’s historic 1952 concert 4′33″ in Woodstock, New York, in which Cage sits at a piano, not playing the keys, the sounds of the physical environment becoming the work. In another, a school bus full of teenagers offers a brief chaotic immersion into high-school life — young voices loudly chiming over one another in a psychologically spirited chorus. With a keen textural quality, The Tuba Thieves threads together seemingly disparate narratives to create a deeply sensorial and cinematically alluring experience.

<em>The Tuba Thieves</em>
Courtesy Photo

Also on view in the galleries are sculptures made from materials that reflect and absorb sound, such as acoustic foam and carpet. For O’Daniel, who is hard of hearing, the nuance of sound forms the core of her artistic practice. With each new project, she is deeply aware of audience reception and the variations in ability each person may bring to the work. Consequently, each chapter of The Tuba Thieves will be experienced differently in a manner that is nonhierarchical. For individuals who may be deaf or hard of hearing, the visual narrative still reflects the commotion or serenity of the scene itself; for those who may be blind, the cacophony of diverse sounds continues to deliver a wildly immersive experience; and for other viewers, sign language may be unrecognizable and captions required. Through the awareness of disability, O’Daniel emphasizes how works of art are constantly reinterpreted based on what each new viewer brings to the experience. With the potential to be a historic project in both disability studies and contemporary art history, the film ultimately reinterprets and elevates the essentials of the medium: image and sound.

NO MA T H EMA T I C AL LOGIC runs through December 7.


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