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“The Light We Hear”

Andy Behrle’s audio sculptures at 950 Gallery

“Cathedral,” mixed-media sculpture with headphones, table and chair by Andy Berle. Photo courtesy 950 Gallery

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I introduced Andy Behrle's audio sculpture show "The Light We Hear" in this column last week but did not see the show until after that column was printed. Now, after seeing the show, I offer a more in-depth look at it. 

Behrle, who lives near Yakima, seems to be something of a scrounger who haunts flea markets and garage sales for old radios and record players and cameras, refinishes them, guts them and turns them into multi-media, interactive, music-making sculptures and installations with modern technology. (The music in some pieces consists of various electronic sounds unlike what many might expect of music.) Many of them include film or video, particularly images of moving water, and each comes with instructions for playing. Gallery manager Gabriel Brown says each one is specific to a place.

A few examples:

"Cyclone-o-phone" is one of the most beautiful pieces in the show. It is a radio-turntable in a highly polished wooden cabinet. A hinged door opens to the inside where a turntable once sat, but instead of the turntable there are chemical-lab beakers, flasks and test tubes, and inside the largest flask is an active waterspout or cyclone which casts rainbow reflections.

"Nouveau" also resides in a beautiful old wooden radio cabinet, this one from the 1940s, but instead of the interior workings of the radio there is a video screen with footage from two cameras at Lake Celilo on the Columbia River, one filming the movement of water on the lake's surface, and the other filming the sky as seen from under the water. The audio portion is the sound of the water.

Some get quite complicated. A record player called "Magnavox Astrum" contains a modern soundboard visitors can play with to adjust record speed and choose between classic or electronic modes of play and change the rhythm. This one was a lot of fun.

Not all the pieces are in old radios, record players or cameras. There is one quite beautiful and meditative piece involving sound and moving images in a modern flat screen television, and Behrle's most recent piece is a video projection on a wall that looks like a modern mandala but is, in fact, made up of images of the sun seen at different wavelengths.

I confess that the science and technology involved in many of these works are beyond my comprehension, and I was not overwhelmed with the beauty of the audio aspects, but I loved the visual elements. The water images are mesmerizing. I appreciate the nostalgic element and the classic design of the old radios and record players. Like me, I suspect that each viewer will find certain parts of this show more interesting than others; but all, I'm sure, will find much to like.

950 Gallery is the renamed Spaceworks Gallery on Pacific Ave. (entrance on S. 11th St.)

"THE LIGHT WE HEAR," 1-5 p.m., Thursday (until 9 p.m. Third Thursday), or by appointment, through June 21, reception 5-9 p.m., May 17, 950 Pacific Ave., Suite 205, Tacoma, 253.627.2175,

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