Boundary Interference

On an interior wall, behind a bench made of foam, I placed two mass drivers equally spaced along the length of the bench at a height just above the midpoint of the average bench-sitter’s spine. A recording of automobile traffic was played, using the wall as a transducer, such that the primary mode of audition took place through bone conduction while the listener was seated on the bench and leaning back against the wall.

The use of traffic sounds was designed to acousmatically disrupt the perceived geography of the building. Many people rose from the bench and walked around the wall—a wall on the opposite side of the building from the street entrance—in an apparent attempt to reconcile the perceived acoustic information with their mental map of the built environment. With the use of bone conduction, whereby sound seems to inhabit one’s body, my intent was to conflate sensations of personal and public acoustic spaces. Further, the absence of any evident means of sound production caused some additional confusion. Environmental, personal, and cognitive boundaries were transgressed or, at least, dislocated by the installation. Sound interfered with both the perception of architectural space and the privacy of internal space.

Catalog statement for Immaterial/Ultramaterial, Gund Hall, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, March 2001.

Published in Immaterial|ultramaterial: architecture, design, and materials, edited by Toshiko Mori, George Brazilier, Inc., New York, 2002, ISBN 0–8076–1508–0.