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'Resonating objects'

Margaret Noble's sound art at South Puget Sound Community College

Students interacting with “Material Shrine for a New Class”. Photo courtesy South Puget Sound Community College

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South Puget Sound Community College gallery director Nathan Barnes noted that Margaret Noble's exhibition, "Resonating Objects," begs the question "what is art?" Is it just painting and sculpture? What about sound, movement, light? What are the boundaries between visual art and the performing arts? There are no easy answers, but Noble's exhibition certainly raises the questions.

Noble is a sound artist. Her experimental artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally. "Resonating Objects" is a series of sculptural sound objects "designed to immerse audiences in artifacts of identity and memory through tactile gestures and ephemeral sonic experiences," according to the show announcement.

This is the kind of show that would have excited me years ago when I was young and passionate about anything that broke out of the stifling box of traditional art. But now that I'm old and crotchety, I don't have the patience to give this work the sustained attention it demands. It is intelligent, it evokes memory and thought, and it is well crafted. It may well be your cup of tea, dear reader.

In a far corner of the gallery stands (and hangs) "Material Shrine for a New Class," a group of odd objects hanging from the ceiling - a Barbie doll, bronzed baby shoes, a mirror and frame, a teapot and other objects of nostalgic value - and a set of headphones on a stand with instructions to "squeeze the objects to hear their history." The posted explanation says this piece "represents a departure from our physical world into a virtual life of transhumanism."  

Another piece called "Head in Sand" is a wooden box with a hole on top with instructions to "put your head in the hole and wait."

One of the more fascinating works is "Records of Intimacy," consisting of stacks of very old bound journals with clasps of the type that were used as diaries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a desk lamp with instructions to hold each book under the light and open it. When you follow the instructions, you hear different sounds from each book. A wall text explains, "Archived in these lost albums are nameless, faceless moments - waiting."

Each of the pieces in the show is interactive, and each involves sound. It is a quiet, contemplative show - an intellectual puzzle. Each piece requires careful attention and an investment of your time. Noble's show may not be for everyone, but with attention and thought you might find it immensely rewarding.

Margaret Noble's "Resonating Objects", Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. through Oct. 12, South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia, 360.596.5527

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