“All of my works in the landscape … start with the forces that are already at play and then I adapt what I do to the conditions at hand. In this way I see my practice as an act of facilitation making visible something that is already there.” —William Lamson, in an interview with Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
Last month, I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art where I discovered William Lamson via his piece called A Line Describing the Sun. Sound was an important part of the experience and I quickly realized the impact of his work. There’s a bit of an art-and-science presence because he focuses on earthly, natural elements. For example, he has a fascination with flight (as seen in his Sublunar series) and was recently in the group exhibition Celestial at Camera Club of New York.
A Line Describing the Sun, 2010. Credit: Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).
A Line Describing the Sun involved a day long performance in the Mojave desert in which I followed the path of the sun with a large Fresnel lens mounted on a rolling apparatus. The lens focuses the sun into a 1,600-degree point of light that melts the dry mud, transforming it into a black glassy substance. Over the course of a day, as the sun moves across the sky, a hemispherical arc is imprinted into the lakebed floor. —William Lamson
Video excerpt of A Line Describing the Sun via YouTube (whamup).
Diving Meteorology, installation, 2011. Credit: Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).
To create Divining Meteorology, Lamson reanimated a former communications tower by transforming it into an instrument. Originally designed to withstand the trials of nature, this monumental tower was relocated from the Missouri countryside to the Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion and re-engineered to fit inside the space, as if it had collapsed into itself. In addition, the artist installed a system of speakers and resonators throughout the structure that receive the weather radio signal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and allow him to “play” the tower as an instrument. By moving a magnetic pickup device across the metal structure, Lamson activates internal resonances within the tower that are both physical and acoustic. The resulting audio composition mixes recordings of the artist’s movements around and through the structure with the live weather radio broadcast. Like the shifting weather, the sound varies from extreme quiet to a vigorous crescendo.
Lamson’s repurposed tower radically reinterprets the weather conditions that the glass-paneled pavilion both reveals and protects against. Harnessing the imperceptible phenomena of a radio signal, the artist—rather than making its real-time weather report audible—translates the signal into a physical and resonant experience. With Divining Meteorology, Lamson has created an unlikely instrument whose totemic presence suggests an unknown mythology. —Indianapolis Museum of Art
Click here to watch IMA’s video about Divining Meteorology.