Live Art on the 'Front Lawn' ; Year-Round, Ever-Changing Video and Sound Space to Grace Burchfield Penny

The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), July 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

Live Art on the 'Front Lawn' ; Year-Round, Ever-Changing Video and Sound Space to Grace Burchfield Penny


Burchfield Penney building a 'screen' for bold new installation

At dusk on Sept. 12, the Museum District will welcome its loudest and perhaps boldest new feature when the Burchfield Penney Art Center opens a permanent outdoor sound and video installation it is calling "The Front Yard."

The Burchfield Penney will break ground today on the ambitious installation, which will transform the zinc-plated facade of the museum into a year-round video projection screen at night and its small front lawn into a constantly shifting sound installation in the daytime hours.

Local video artist Brian Milbrand and architect

Brad Wales pitched the approximately $435,000 project to the museum in November and worked with staffers and students from SUNY Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo to design and implement it. The Burchfield Penney is calling it "the world's first permanent environmentally responsive, outdoor audio and video environment."

It will feature three 24-foot steel and glass towers designed by a team led by Brazilian-born UB architecture student Isabel Brito and overseen by Wales. Each of the towers contains a 7,500-lumen video projector that will send an ever-changing series of images onto the building's curved face along Elmwood Avenue. During the day, eight military-grade speakers will create a soundscape featuring sounds gathered from the places where the painter Charles Burchfield worked overlaid with spoken excerpts from his writings. The sound installation will also feature works by composers and sound artists David Felder, Lejaren Hiller, Cort Lippe, Harald Bode and others.

The complex installation will respond to changes in the weather and include projections of live events happening inside the Burchfield Penney or in other global art centers as well as curated videos from artists with ties to Western New York. Each morning and evening, it will play an ever-evolving series of sounds and images based on that day's sunrise and sunset, drawing material from cameras and weather sensors installed on the museum's roof and elsewhere in the vicinity.

The towers themselves, built to withstand hot summers and frigid winters, will have Burchfield paintings engraved on their sides - an attempt to link the work of the museum's namesake to its progressive commitment to sound and video art. It will also take its main motivation - a concern with the changing of the seasons so central to life in Western New York - directly from Burchfield's work.

"It will always be different because the weather's always changing," said Milbrand, who has been creating complex environmental video installations for years. "To have it be the same thing repeating over and over and over, it gets really boring quickly, so I wanted to make something that every time you went to it would be different."

To that end, the series of images that will be projected onto the building will include work by dozens of artists with connections to Western New York, ranging from video pioneers like of UB professor Tony Conrad and the late Paul Sharits to new work by Milbrand, Dorothea Braemer, Jax Deluca and other active local artists. …

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