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Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

Documentation of improvised performance with Fiona Small. Photo by Lauren Click.

Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

Detail shot of Canyon Box (foreground) and Ash Board (background). The Canyon Box is made of dulcimer and harp strings, zither pins, ash wood, found box, and scrollsawed plywood. The Ash Board is made of ash wood, three movable found wood bridges, zither pins, harp strings, copper pipes, clay beads, and other found wood parts. Photo taken by Lauren Click.

06-31-18 , Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too Performance Excerpt

Field recording of performance on Ash Board, Canyon Box, and Moveable Chime at the Public Art Social on the morning of June 30, 2018.

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About Katie

Baltimore City

Katie Shlon is a conceptual artist exploring the social implications of built environments. Katie creates site-specific installations, makes music, and takes field recordings to archive and explore the complex relationships we have with buildings, the land, and each other.  Katie's work has been shown internationally across the USA, UK, and Europe. In 2017, Katie received a Rubys Grant for Performing Arts from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

“Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too” is a collection of instruments for listening, meditation, and performance commissioned by the city of Boulder as a part of their Experiments in Public Art. I made these instruments response to and mostly of wood from Ash trees felled in the city’s Central Park due to infestation by the Emerald Ash Borer. All other materials were sourced secondhand, with the exclusion of the strings and tuning hardware.

Much like the landscape, these instruments are living and changing. They are tuned by the elements and sometimes sound because of them. While the components of these instruments may be recognized from traditional musical instruments, these are not instruments for music making. The strings may vibrate loudly, clamor, buzz, and pitches may bend. Their sounds resonate against a dense or a hollow body. You may notice that you have to listen very closely to hear the sounds they make. There are other things to be heard in the absence of sound; this involves listening with your eyes, ears, and mind.

My performance of these instruments is led by their environmental collaborators. In this case, the compositions created are dictated by the running creek, wind, and density of the surrounding treescape. Plucking their strings is always either in unison or in competition with the existing environment.

These instruments were installed between June 28th-June 30th, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado and a series of events were held for their listening. Flutist, composer, and certified Deep Listening practicioner Jane Rigler led a group in sonic meditations and a sound walk, ending at the installation and solo performance by myself. Additionally, I performed the instruments solo on multiple mornings throughout their installation, as well as a duet with performer Fiona Small.

  • Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

    Documentation of improvised performance with Fiona Small. Photo by Lauren Click.
  • Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

    Detail shot of the Canyon Box and Ash Board instruments during performance.
  • Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

    Detail shot of Canyon Box (foreground) and Ash Board (background). The Canyon Box is made of dulcimer and harp strings, zither pins, ash wood, found box, and scrollsawed plywood. The Ash Board is made of ash wood, three movable found wood bridges, zither pins, harp strings, copper pipes, clay beads, and other found wood parts. Photo taken by Lauren Click.
  • Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

    Environmental shot of the installation in Boulder, Colorado. Photo taken by Lauren Click.
  • Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

    Documentation of Fiona Small playing the Movable Chime. Mounted on an ash log and stump, the Movable Chime is made of copper pipes, brass hardware, dowels, clay beads, and string. Photo taken by Lauren Click.
  • Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too

    More documentation of the Movable Chime. Photo by Lauren Click.
  • 06-31-18 , Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too Performance Excerpt

    Field recording of performance on Ash Board, Canyon Box, and Moveable Chime at the Public Art Social on the morning of June 30, 2018.
  • Sonic Meditations

    Jane Rigler leading a group in sonic meditations prior to leading a sound walk to the Trees Harp and Wind Harps, too installation site. Photo by Lauren Click.
  • Sonic Meditations

    More documentation of sonic meditations around the installation site. Photo by Lauren Click.
  • Public Art Social

    The public interacting with instruments during a Public Art Walk led by Boulder's Public Art Director, Mandy Vink. Photo by Lauren Click.

Bodies in Sounded Space

Bodies in Sounded Space explores the architectural and social boundaries which differentiate sound from music. All works were created in collaboration with Fionn Duffy (London/Glasgow) and was supported by a Rubys Grant for Performing Arts in 2017. In this work, we investigate the role our bodies play in creating a score for new sound works and how what we see influences what we hear.

Transforming architectural space into the body of an instrument, we created sculptural interventions as structures for sound. We constructed these of familiar materials: crown moulding, sitar strings, hypertufa, glass bottles, and copper piping. These act as listening devices and instruments, creating new sounds or triggering collected audio recordings. We were interested in testing the ways in which introducing a set of tools or pathways into a space transforms an audience’s experience. Movement through the space activates the instrument: bodies experiencing localized ‘music’ dependent on positions relative to permanent and interventional structures.

  • Floor Harp

    Floor Harp installed at School 33 Art Center. Floor Harp made from spray paint, crown moulding, guitar tuning heads, sitar strings, and bent acrylic bridge. Installed with Floor Pillows and Sandbags made from custom silk-screened fabric.
  • Floor Harp

    More installation details.
  • Impressionist Landscape Seascape Reproduction Framed Art Kick Drum

    Impressionist Landscape Seascape Reproduction Framed Art Kick Drum is made of a found picture frame, banister, kick drum pedal, and stretched painted glassine. In the background is a speaker triggered by a doorbell on another piece in the installation.
  • Twelve Pipe Mobile Garden Wall, Sandbags, and Doorway installation

    The Twelve Pipe Mobile Garden Wall is made of hypertufa, glass bottles, plywood, and wheels.
  • Twelve Pipe Mobile Garden Wall, Sandbags, and Doorway installation

    The Doorway is made of plywood and spray painted crown moulding. It is stabilized by pieces of the Twelve Pipe Mobile Garden Wall and custom made sandbags. There is a doorbell which triggers a field recording to play in another part of the installation.
  • Three Bottle Pipe

    Three Bottle Pipe installed at School 33 Art Center. Made of hypertufa, glass bottles, and tile.
  • Sound Dampening Blanket

    The Sound Dampening Blanket is a jacquard woven collage.
  • Windchime

    Windchime made of steel, dowel, and nylon string.
  • Furniture for Player Piano Roll

    Furniture for Player Piano Roll installed with a sandbag made of custom silk screened fabric and a motion-sensor activated speaker.
  • Performance Still

    Opening night included performances of the sculptures by sound artists Carrie Fucile, Liz Meredith, and Tim Wisiniewski.

Play Some Songs to Make the Plants Grow

On May 24th, 2015, I set out on a 3-week road trip across the Western United States to document 5 vernacular art environments. At each site, the maker’s yard or garden at their home was their primary mode of expression. Because landscape is a common ground for everyone, the creation of place within the landscape helps to make sense of the world-- and to create a sense of belonging. These sites spanned anywhere from Catholic devotional grottos in Iowa to Noah Purifoy’s response to politics and racism in Los Angeles at his Outdoor Desert Art Museum, to Leonard Knight’s commitment to spreading a message of love at Salvation Mountain in Niland, California. Further indulging in the vernacular narrative of these sites, I played some songs to make the plants grow and made cassette field recordings of the improvised performances. These songs are both in honor of the plant’s caretakers who are no longer living, and in honor to the plants or landscape that play(ed) a huge part of the healing process for both the artists and visitors to the sites.

Full album at http://www.katieshlon.bandcamp.com

This project was generously supported by a Roads Grant for Travel and Research, given through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mhor Farr Collaborations 2016-2017

Collaborations of improvised performances and musical instruments between myself and a few artists at Mhor Farr in 2016-2017. I view these instruments as both site-specific and site-responsive, made from materials gathered from in and around the house and Mellon Udrigle Beach. The instruments will continually be repaired, built onto, recorded with each year we re-visit them at their home in Mhor Farr. This project is always ongoing, investigative research for developing my sculpture and musical instrument making practice. In most of these works I am a builder, but in some I serve as just a performer of other collaborator's instruments.

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Mhor Farr is a remote project space that acts as an annual durational salon. Considering the site as a living place, creative individuals are invited to collectively shape the group’s agenda, cultivating common interests and developing research whilst working closely with the rural landscape of Wester Ross, Scotland for 3 weeks of the year.

  • Shore Harp

    Shore Harp made from found wood, dulcimer strings, and tuning pegs. 2017.
  • Board Cello

    Board cello made of found wood, paint, cello strings, and tuning pegs. 2017.
  • Alice Playing the Shell Tambourine (video still)

    From a :12 loop of Alice playing the shell tambourine at Mellon Udrigle beach near Mhor Farr. Part of an in progress work called "Celebration". 2017-ongoing. Instrument made by myself, performance by Alice Jackson (UK).
  • Sharif Playing the Shell Lute

    Still from a :12 video loop of Sharif playing the shell lute at Mhor Farr. Part of a larger, in-progress video work called "Celebration". 2017-ongoing. Instrument made by myself, costume by Coral Kindred Boothby (UK), performance by Sharif Elsabagh (UK).
  • Shell Tambourine

    Tambourine made from willow found at Mhor Farr, limpit shells, and fishing line. 2017.
  • Shell Lute

    Percussive shell lute made from willow, found wood, fishing line, limpit, and winkle shells. 2017.
  • when we stayed up late and played music when everyone else went to sleep except ben and sophie

    Cassette field recording of improvised music at Mhor Farr in 2016. Harvey Herman on guitar and myself on glockenspiel made by Fionn Duffy.
  • Glockenspill

    Knocked over the Glockenspiel in 2016.
  • Windchime

    A windchime Fionn Duffy (UK) and I made in an afternoon out of things washed up on Mellon Udrigle Beach and items we found around Mhor Farr in 2016. Installed on the grounds one chilly afternoon.
  • Mhor Farr Music

    I appear as a performer along with Chris Harnan (UK) and Fionn Duffy (UK). Instruments made by Fionn Duffy and costumes made by Coral Kindred Boothby at Mhor Farr in 2016.

Something to Walk On

In 2015, I recieved a grant from the Kone Foundation in Finland to attend their Saari Residence. The grant was used to research architecture made in close consideration to the natural environment. I spent two months visiting libraries, buildings, and museums and listening to people talk about their relationships to architecture, the built environment, and the landscape. I spent a great deal of time with Alvar Aalto's work and philosophies, mostly attracted to how architecture can nurture and be in harmony with the natural environment. He also viewed architecture as a public service and a work of art, exploring the emotional capabilities of that use. These are some sculptures I made in response, installed in my studio and shown in a group exhibition at Titanik Galleria in Turku, Finland with other Saari Fellows Leena Kangaskoski (FI) and Charlotte Mumm (GE/NE), with performances by Marja and Niko-Matti Ahti (FI) at the opening in December 2015.

  • Something to Walk On (Working Title, Titanik Galleria)

    Something to Walk on installed at "Working Title" at Titanik Galleria in Turku, Finland in December 2015. Group show with Charlotte Mumm (GE/NE), whose work appears on the walls, and Leena Kangaskoski(FI).
  • Something to Walk On (Working Title, Titanik Galleria)

    Part of Something to Walk on installed at "Working Title" at Titanik Gallery in Turku, Finland in December 2015.
  • Working Title at Titanik galleria

    "Working Title" opening night at Titanik in Turku, Finland in December 2015. You can see Marja Ahti performing on a gold table inside and Leena Kangaskoski's installation in the windows.
  • Something to Walk On

    Two elements of "Something to Walk On". Flag drawn with crayon, fallen tree branch, cement base. Garden trellis, pine bough, cement, bricks, drawings on paper, rope, tape, leaves.
  • Something to Walk On

    Installation detail.
  • Something to Walk On

    More details of the installation. Fallen branches set in cement bases, viewing platform made of found wood and rope, trellis sculpture and flag sculpture.

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