Blowing in the wind

Five years of local artist’s work culminates in new exhibit at gallery on campus

  • An image from Ken Gregory’s wind coil sound flow exhibit. Installation view as presented at Articule in Montreal.

On top of his involvement with the Send + Receive festival and Mike Petkau’s Record of the Week Club, local DIY kingpin Ken Gregory has spent the past five years on a most intriguing project. Ken Gregory has been trying to catch the wind.

Gregory’s wind coil sound flow exhibit is the end result of a five-year project that aims to answer the question: If the wind could speak to us, what would it say?

By merging acoustic electro-mechanics, sculpture and a strong sense of playfulness, the artist has created a collection of bare-boned, hand-made wind instruments.

These instruments are not played per se, but rather built. The rest is left up to the wind, which either vibrates the strings or blows through specially designed openings in the body of the instrument, creating a multi-layered and unique tone.

Gregory’s experimentation with these devices has been realized with his exhibition opening at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 on Thursday, Oct. 1. Wind coil sound flow is the result of Gregory’s most ambitious creation within this project, the Aeolian Kite.

“The kite’s towline is acoustically coupled to a resonator,” Gregory wrote on his blog, Cheap Meat Dreams and Acorns. “The resonator amplifies the wind-induced vibrations of the towline and resonates harmonically.”

The resulting “wind song,” eerily comparable to the human voice, is then incorporated into an installation within the gallery, amplified through kinetic speakers reminiscent of kites.

These low-tech phonographic machines may look a little like junk – they’re tin cans and bungee cords – but that simplicity is the beauty of Gregory’s aesthetic.

“The basic idea is to experiment with acoustic and electronic amplification systems so that these sounds can be heard by the naked ear.”

Gregory’s penchant for both “naked” and “basic” is his greatest strength. His work isn’t just for the visually inclined either. As Milena Placentile, curator for Gallery 1C03 points out, Gregory’s work pours over the edge of the visual arts realm.

“There are unexpected curriculum connections [such as] applied computer science, physics and sciences/sustainability studies … Ken’s practice encompasses an incredibly diverse range of activities from DIY electronics and hacking, to audio recording, to live performance.”

Indeed, any audiophile who recognizes the name John Cage, who has listened to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album or who can argue for the inherent beauty of dissonant noise will certainly find merit in this work.

This is acoustic ecology at its finest. Gregory is diving deep with a striking study of environmental sound and how it is interpreted, as well as meditating on the unrealized inspirational potential hidden in the most unlikely places.

Ultimately, the viewer finds him or herself looking for what else is ever-present but constantly ignored.

Published in Volume 64, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 1, 2009)

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