U P R I S I N G - SITE SPECIFICITY AND THE SUYAMA SPACE
Rick Araluce & Steve Peters
Photo taken by Brian Miller
A couple of weeks ago, I set off to explore Seattle and discovered a great many interesting things. Of the most noteworthy, the Uprising installation by Rick Araluce and Steve Peters at Suyama Space.
The Suyama space is an amazing locale where an architecture firm, arts space and a custom designer goods shop co-habitate. UPRISING is the latest installation in the Suyama Space’s curatorial timeline. In UPRISING one finds an elaborate network of plumbing that has no longer been relegated to behind walls, rather the jumbled tangle of plumbing pipes invade the Suyama arts space visually forcing their presence upon visitors who must navigate in and around the rows and columns that they form. Several of the pipes attach to the surrounding walls and sneak through the old wooden floorboards, but many of these pipes do not lead to anywhere, they are left open ended; all different widths, all different lengths, all sticking out, taunting visitors to look inside, or, perhaps to listen….
Should one press their ear to the pipes, depending on which piece they have selected to listen to, they encounter silence, or they may discover an abstract ethereal and otherworldly soundtrack: moans, drones and muffled tones, the inner workings of the building these pipes are a part of.
Both the physical composition and the sound accompaniment to the installation are a brilliant shining beacon of ‘site specificity’ in a world where this term is used with little discretion, rhyme or reason. UPRISING is an incredibly site-specific and satisfying installation to visit for the following reasons:
The work actively engages with the space, in physical form the pipes don’t rest on the floor, they enter into it, just as they extend out of the walls, they become the space.
The sound work, is actually manipulated recordings of the physical Suyama Space, it is cyclical in tone, and self-referential to the space and the noises found within the space. The sound is the space, and of the space.
The Suyama Space is a powerful and challenging site to show artworks in. The Curator of the space, Beth Sellars, has said that originally when they tried to host exhibitions in the space, simply placing works on site was incredibly problematic, as they did not sit well in-situ. Hence why Suyama Space moved towards programming works that are installation based, and making use of and directly referencing the space itself. Since this shift in programming (early 2000’s), the works installed have been very successful. (click to view programming)
The partially hidden sound of the installation, coupled with the silence of the space when it is first encountered, evokes an alluring sense of sotto voce: Steve Peter’s soundtrack in low hums and rumbles is calm, and peaceful, yet within these frequencies, one also feels a serious sense of instability, a low warning of things that have begun to stir, and that won’t easily be put to rest. The fact that the sound can only be heard in certain pipes, and not others, adds confusion, suggesting to visitors that things that are happening behind the scenes (in the pipes) are only accessible from certain vantage points. Thus listening through pipes harks back to times in history when secrecy was required to plan attacks, revolts and revolutions, and to hide things from plain site. (This brings to my mind, pipes that were used to transfer messages from one house to another when smuggling slaves across the border into Canada, Ann Frank and her family’s hidden apartment etc.) The act of listening through the pipes, also has a familiarity to it referring back to childhood as well, once can recall the act of passing secrets through cans with string tied on either end. When listening to these sounds, consciously or subconsciously, our mind and body becomes aware that there is an important message in the sub terrain.
The crafted pipes are also alla sotto voce; Rick Araluce skillfully manipulated the plastic pipes within the installation to resemble old run-down rusted metal pipes; ones that would have easily been found within an old building such as the Suyama Space. A magnificent Trompe L’oeil where one thinks that the pipes are, or could be part of the original space. The fact that they have taken over the exhibition hall only further asserts their stranglehold over the space, suggesting in a strong visual language that they are, and have always been part of the buildings very foundation, and they are not going anywhere, if anything, they will proliferate.
An outstanding installation and captivating sound work, UPRISING is quite possibly one of the best site-specific works I have seen in a long time. I highly recommend visiting the space if you are in Seattle. The show is up until April 13th.