Eavesdropping

Eavesdropping

Exit Art / The First World
New York, NY
1996

The most seductive conversation is the conversation overheard. Eavesdropping, a one-way transgression of the boundary between private and public, is a time-honored tradition of the art gallery event. This project takes this transgressive social act and ritually enacts it within the public space of a gallery. As a mechanism that constructs the process of eavesdropping, the installation plays with the desire to listen-in to a private conversation, bringing it into public consciousness.  By exacerbating the spatial conditions of eavesdropping, the installation catches the individual at the moment of complicit interaction.  Ten chairs on wheels with 12-foot-high backs form a continuous wall in their closed position. On the gallery wall directly in front of the seats are ten isolated, low volume speakers. The speakers are connected to a remote microphone suspended in the middle of the gallery. The microphone dangles overhead from a motorized pulley that slowly moves it across the gallery, scanning conversations. These private words are amplified and relayed to the ten speakers. Convoluted acoustical foam on the inside of the chairs creates a sound isolation room between the chairs and the speaker wall, allowing the sitter to eavesdrop on the gallery.

Client:  Exit Art / The First World
Gallery co-directors/curators:  Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo
Project team:  Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, David J. Lewis
Installation team:  Chris Korsh, Mark Shephard, Bill Peterson, David Ruff, Jennifer Whitburn, Clarissa Richardson, Kim Yao
Photographer:  Michael Moran