Emily Puthoff
Floating in a medium of vast extent (after Pascal Pensees)
2013
This five-channel surround sound installation is composed of architectural fragments, displaced cornerstones made of press-molded clay. The ceramic speakers resonate with a surround sound piece that I composed of a singular viola played by Julia Alsaraf in an abandoned, circular gas holding tank in upstate NY, collectively played crystal singing bowls; and a lone factory whistle. The speakers are installed in a semi-circular arrangement and the viewer is invited to stand in the center of them. The surround sound is composed in such a manner that the sound spirals up, down and around the body.

The title of the work, "Floating in a medium of vast extent" is an excerpt from philosopher Blaise Pascal's thoughts (pensees) on human happiness. The text ruminates on the human desire to build structures, spiraling, infinite towers of certainty within an ever-changing, fluid existence. Pascal's text and the form the spiral and infinite loops proved inspirational as I recorded and composed the sound score.

This work was initiated during an artist residency at the European Ceramic Work Centre (ekwc) in 'sHertogenbosch, Netherlands in the summer of 2008, where I fabricated the speakers. The surround sound composition for the work was composed in 2013. I would like to thank Julia Alsaraf for her lovely viola improvisations, Phillippe Pascal Garnier for facilitating the crystal singing bowl recording session, the European Center Work Center for a wonderful three months in Holland up to my elbows in clay, and SUNY New Paltz for the Creative Research Grant support.
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