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Buffalo River Fugues


Site-Specific Installation
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
Buffalo, New York

In BUFFALO River Fugues the harnessing of the Niagara Falls and surrounding rivers’ water power for development of industry and commerce uncomfortably links a dream of immortality found in the rarified waters of an idealized rural landscape with urban industry and technology (ideas also explored in Leo Marx’s book, The Machine in the Garden). BUFFALO River Fugues reflects this paradox in a quiet exploration of power and loss. In an ironic statement, video images of emergency candles light the space. Installed in metal lantern- boxes seemingly powered by electrical conduits moving throughout the space, these candles burn down, then flicker out and are re-lit, only to flicker out again in an unending cycle.

The installation of industrial pipes, vents and electrical conduits is integrated into the architecture with care to blur the lines between my intervention and what is already there so that the viewer must question what is assumed familiar or “real”.

Walking through the gallery, the viewer is led into what feels to be an abandoned industrial site with the haunting sounds of an old steel mill breathing through a large pipe, abandoned tool boxes, a radio playing a narrative fugue spun from fragments of songs, evangelical prophecies, advertisements and tourists exclaiming in wonder at Niagara Falls. An image of Niagara Falls plays continuously on the “portable” TV which, like the transistor radio, is not actually portable at all, but hardwired and connected to a whole system of electrical conduits running through the space.

Like a poem, BUFFALO River Fugues is experienced line for line in fragments which, when assembled, become a poignant elegy to the complex and changing relationship of a society to its industries and its rivers.

Site dimensions: 16' ceilings x 30' x 20' x 10'

Installation Materials: Spiral steel pipe, dvd players, radio, audio speakers, tv, cooler, steel tool boxes,
galvanized metal dvd candle video boxes.

Installation Dimensions: Spiral steel pipes: 24" diameter and variable lengths and heights from 14' - 20'

Candle video boxes: dimensions variable from 12" square to 20" square