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At the intersection of sound, space, and structure: ELEMENTAL

Last Friday night I went to the 2019 opening of Installation Space in downtown North Adams to take in a new installation called ELEMENTAL.  The art exhibit is billed by Installation Space as “An immersive installation inspired by the basic structure of things. Its visual form explores the inner world of painting and cardboard, their visceral and abstract qualities—intersection, edge, line, negative space, texture, color, and movement. The installation is composed of sculptural visual elements, real time video re-projection, and sound.  The sound mirrors the visual net of  “the structures” by utilizing an algorithmic process of evolution of a complex modular texture.”  ELEMENTAL is the result of collaboration between two artists who both hold positions at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

As I walked through the front door at Installation Space, I was struck by the amount of painted cardboard strips hanging from all points and crisscrossing each other like trees and vines until they draped across the floor and across the walls and ceiling.  There were unusual sounds being played that seemed to me somehow connected to the visual imagery. As I walked further into the installation, I felt as though the imagery was enveloping me, much akin to wandering further into a forest.  On one white wall was a live, real time video projection and I saw myself projected upon the wall as I walked through this “forest” looking up and down and all around me.

Positive and negative space in form and shadow; photo by James Kennedy.
Positive and negative space in form and shadow; photo by James Kennedy.

The sounds were more distinct towards the rear of ELEMENTAL and I felt even more that there was a connection between the sounds and the visual imagery as they worked hand in hand. With the live video re-projection playing on the wall in a sort of holographic way, the unusual music-like sounds and the hanging and intersecting images I was starting to feel as though I was in a very surreal and strange land. There were some soft lounging chairs set up here and there that invited you to come sit a spell and take it all in, letting your senses go to where the artists were leading you.

The Artists

The two artists responsible for this brilliant and wonderful exhibit, called ELEMENTAL, are Katya Popova and Katarina Miljkovic. Katya is a visual artist and designer who has been teaching visual art at New England Conservatory of Music since 2014. Katarina is a composer and Chair / Music Theory at New England Conservatory of Music,  and has taught at the conservatory since 1996. 

The creative forces. Katarina Miljkovic and Katya Popova; photo courtesy Katya Popova.
The creative forces. Katarina Miljkovic and Katya Popova; photo James Kennedy.

Katya Popova

When I asked what the inspiration was for such a piece, Katya explained to me that her intent was in the line, and that she chose cardboard specifically as her medium because it had a warm and organic, yet industrial, quality to it, and was universal in its application to everyday life. The artist told me that she considered these strips of cardboard as her brush strokes and that she was “drawing in space” with her line which was inspired by landscape, referencing the terrain surrounding North Adams. Katya told me that she has been interested in the arts her entire life, and that her father Dmitry Popov, an artist and jewelry designer on the North Shore, has been a big influence and inspiration for her since she was a child.  She told me that for her, at least, a lot of creating art is finding that “light bulb moment” when everything just makes sense. She is presently exploring digital art and has no problem stepping right into the future where art will be made from things we have yet to imagine. With her art, she is not only looking to challenge herself but other people’s perception of art and names sculptor Eva Hesse as an influence. One of her past installations, called Echo, used infinity mirrors so that people could step into a mind blowing trip into personal introspection.

Katarina Miljkovic

I could sense the genius at work when Katarina spoke to me about her mission with the sound. She told me how she recorded the sounds of cardboard being cut and manipulated, creating what she termed “modules of sound” that she then orchestrated into a very simple music using these modules of sound in a random pattern that made sense to create an experience that both fed the imagery as well as fed off of the imagery in her creation.  Katarina received her doctorate at New England Conservatory of Music and has a background in classical piano.  Her calling though is to minimalism and told me she is inspired by American Experimentalism and the likes of John Cage, a noted pioneer in minimalism and pushing the boundaries of sound as art. Having known of Cage myself, I was very intrigued when Katarina spoke so enthusiastically about the simplest elements of music and their intimacy.

Both artists are clearly driven by their passions and look forward to collaborating again on another project. 

ELEMENTAL delivered just as billed and is one installation that is not to be missed! The exhibit runs through June 16, 2019. Check back again the final weekend (starting June 14) for a very special performance.

Installation Art

A father and his son take in the exhibit, ELEMENTAL; photo courtesy Katya Popova.

Installation Space is the brainchild of Anna Farrington.  

Installation art is a very different approach to art and the art making process.  Installation art can be a very stimulating multi-sensory experience set in a three dimensional space and can play with your perceptions by appealing to your own individual senses and thoughts, its interpretation making it a little different experience for everyone.

An artist herself, Anna’s mission is to feature cutting edge exhibitions in her gallery that are thought-provoking, interpretive, and innovative.

Installation Space is located at 49 Eagle Street in historic downtown North Adams and is open Fridays 4:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Gallery owner and artist Anna Farrington with writer James Kennedy.
Gallery owner and artist Anna Farrington with writer James Kennedy.

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