Monthly Archives: April 2011

Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena Kennedy Lecture Series

On Wednesday April 13th, Adam Putnam gave the first in a series of three artist lectures relating to the Kennedy Museum’s current exhibit: Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena.  Putnam’s talk, Threshold Spaces and Landscapes, explored his most recent work, while giving the audience a peak into his influences and obsessions. Putnam’s talk was as sporadic as his work, which included a multitude of digressions and tangents, creating a composite of his artistic past and present.  Putnam explained that his work comes together as he gives into his urges, an explanation for the multitude of mediums that he constantly experimenting with and improving.

Untitled (Portrait), 2009

Courtesy of Meridith Monk

Although Putnam’s work shifts as influences expand and mediums inspire, reoccurring themes and objects seem to nestle themselves within much of his diverse work.  Mirrors, bursts of light, infinite regress, and dark doorways permeate his collection of work that stems from the dark and unknown.  Threshold was circled back to time and time again, as one of Putnam’s obsessions revolves around the idea of inside and outside space.  An example of this confusion between inside and outside is reflected in much of the artist M.C. Escher’s work, which revolves around mind-twisting images combining real and imaginary city and landscapes.  These works relate back to Putnam’s own work which he described as “trying to force things together that don’t belong, or shouldn’t”.

Example of M.C. Escher’s work shown by Putnam

Courtesy of

The selection of Putnam’s work displayed at the Kennedy is a series of strange short films that depict the paranormal.  Many of Putnam’s favorite objects are included in the series, as one contains mirrors positioned to form an infinite regress, star bursts of light twinkle eerily in another, and the artist himself is seen facing the camera in a bondage that covers the entirety of his face.  These are the same videos that were the backdrop to Aaron Butler’s performance during “Phantom” by the New Music Ensemble, and have an entirely different feel when they are displayed without accompanying music.  The Kennedy is the first vessel for these films, which Putnam admits to experimenting with far away from his own artistic environment to see how they will be perceived.

Two artists will follow Putnam’s talk, as Victor Vazquez speaks about his work in Mitchell Auditorium on Tuesday May 10th at 6:30 p.m., and Corinne Botz about her own on Thursday May 26th at the Ridges Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

“Phantom” by the New Music Ensemble

This Thursday, students, community members and faculty gathered at the Kennedy Museum for “Phantom,” an experiment in musical performance by Ohio University’s New Music Ensemble.  The event took place within the exhibit “Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena,” the visual backdrop for an immersive multi-media experience.

Musicians placed themselves sporadically throughout the gallery, some even facing the walls to achieve a sound that filled the three-room space.  The audience was invited to walk amongst the musicians, who normally would be unobtainable because of a stage, were closer than an arms distance away and seemed almost vulnerable.

The experience seemed almost as much of a social experiment as musical one as the musicians were equally unaware as the audience as to how the process would work or occur organically. Movement was scarce until gradually members of the audience became confident enough to approach the musicians and circulate past the artwork.  The audience, which was at first scared of the invitation for movement, became controlled by the sound as walking began to take a zombie-like quality that increased speed with volume and stopped completely when the audience intuitively felt the end of the first piece. The music seemed to dictate the behavior of those within the space.

The mood that director Dr. Andrew Trachsel desired for the performance was one in which the audience was just as much apart of the performance as those actually performing. This worked well within the first piece but seemed to diminish as the performances became more dependent on specific areas of the exhibit.

Within one of these stationary pieces, Aaron Butler, a graduate student in percussion, experimented with four triangles in a dark room lit only by projections of eerie short footage depicting paranormal behavior. Pedals were used to control different parameters of the software as Butler placed a microphone closely to the triangles he softly struck.

“The piece is basically an exploitation and exploration of the sound of a triangle. Triangles tend be thought of as a pretty little pointillist accents, but if you get in real close the overtones go on for a really long time and some of the coolest sounds of the triangle are the hardest to hear,” said Butler.

Audience participation was again instated during, “Waiting Room,” in which the musicians were separated from normal sheet music and instead given documentation in the form of circles and dots, which indicated what the musician should do.  Breath was incorporated as well, as the musicians followed the rhythm of their own to keep a pace throughout the piece. Keys, shoes, and even The Post were all used towards the overall composition, as they were shaken, smacked, and ripped.  In the spirit of musical inventiveness an audience member even joined in by playing the unattended gong featured in the center of the room.

In case you missed this musical experiment, come see the Nobrow Music Collective, which features members from the New Music Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble. The event will be free and tonight from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Arts/West.