Flux Projects to bring interactive sound installations to Ponce City Market

Eight interactive sound installations will activate Ponce City Market from September 26-28

by Andrew Alexander

Featured image: A preliminary sketch for Unexpected Collective’s Tubes, one of the interactive works slated for Flux Projects at Ponce City Market (Images courtesy the artists/Flux)

On any given day at Ponce City Market, thousands of people pass through the mixed-use development’s boisterous food hall to eat, drink, work and play. The racket they make is actually the starting point for artist Ben Coleman’s curatorial approach to the upcoming Flux Projects event at Ponce City Market.

From September 26-28, Coleman and Flux will present eight playful sound installations around the property with the intent of encouraging visitors to slow down, to contemplate their environment, and–as Coleman puts it–to listen rather than just to hear. 

Coleman, an Atlanta-based sound artist, musician and composer who says he’s long been dissatisfied with the sequestered and antiseptic “white cube” gallery presentation of most sound art, says he views the ceaseless activity and noise at Ponce City Market, not as a disadvantage, but as an intriguing and exciting point of departure. 

Each of the art installations for the project is meant to manifest the sonic qualities of the building in engaging, unexpected ways, he says. And Coleman points out that the building itself, an enormous, sprawling former Sears store originally opened in 1925, is also metaphorically alive with echoes of the past, a history that several of the installations either reference, engage with, or seek to reveal.

Atlanta-based artist Ben Coleman is the curator of Flux Projects at Ponce City Market. He says the building’s noise and activity was an interesting point of departure in selecting and placing the various works which will be activated from September 26 to 28.

The ground level food court was ultimately deemed too noisy and busy for any of the works, but the pieces, which were selected from a wide range of proposals from an open call to artists, will be placed in other places around the building, some boisterous and prominent, others more quiet and sequestered. 

Coleman’s own work incorporating a symphony of various evocative recorded sounds will be broadcast on the buildings PA-system, which normally transmits soothing easy-listening music into the courtyard and parking lots. New York-based artist Eli Kessler’s project will divide a four-part canon by Bach between multi-channel speakers placed in one of the building’s stairwells: visitors will hear the low-frequency bass voice at the bottom, move up through through the baritone and tenor to finally encounter the soprano at the top. Atlanta-based artist Jane Foley’s project Silent Like a Waterfall will use a fountain and an underwater microphone to create a site-specific echo chamber, referencing Ponce City Market’s placement above a former natural spring.

A preliminary sketch shows collaborators Mark Wentzel and Andrew Lackey plans for an enormous stringed instrument in one of the building’s 12 story stairwells.

Atlanta-based artist Tricia Hersey’s A Resting Place will consist of a “rest altar” constructed on a former train platform, with speakers amplifying ambient white noise, creating a restful place where a group of Atlantans can collectively nap. The artists of  Unexpected Collective will create an enormous “echo tube” that will combine a visitor’s voice with recorded voices and sounds of the past. The Athens-based art cooperative Otherpole’s piece Turbulence will utilize The Shed, the long porchlike space facing the BeltLine typically used for farmers’ markets and other events: throughout the weekend, a curated group of electronic and ambient musicians and composers will inject their performances into the spatial environment and interact with a host of sounds in the location, including visitors who can contribute their own audio to the environment.

Talecia Tucker, an artist who also happens to work at Ponce City Market, will place retro phone booths around the property, allowing visitors to pick up a ringing phone and listen in on recorded conversations she’s conducted with other Ponce City Market employees, allowing them to tell their stories in an authentic way that the typical exchange of goods and services doesn’t provide. Collaborators Mark Wentzel and Andrew Lackey will transform a 12 floor service stairwell into a multi-story stringed instrument, a work they’ve entitled escalier forte meaning “loud staircase.”

Flux Projects’ mission as an Atlanta-based non-profit is to “produce temporary art projects that connect and grow artists and audiences in Atlanta through the creative power of place.” Past projects include the enormously popular annual Flux Night of public art projects in Castleberry Hill and last year’s outdoor Grant Park event, which brought work by four Atlanta-based women to Atlanta’s historic Grant Park. Flux Projects also brought soundsuit maker Nick Cave to Ponce City Market in 2015 prior to its reopening as a mixed-use development to create the dance work Up Right Atlanta.

In all, Coleman says that he sees the new projects as ways to encourage visitors to reconnect with the pleasures of listening.

Andrew Alexander is an Atlanta-based writer and founder of The Alexander Report.

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