Michael Mullenniex 1:43 p.m., May 25
"What kind of fuzz-pedal would the Pope use to explain Medieval apologia? What synthesizer will bring Satori during Zazen? How can we understand desire and sin with nothing but a square-wave and a frequency modulation?" These are some of the questions raised in the interactive sound/art installation entitled, Speculative Religious Electronics (SRE), as the official description reads.
Up since December 3rd at the South Park art gallery Disclosed unLocation, SRE's closing reception takes place tonight 6PM-9PM.
The intimate gallery contains 5 sound-eliciting contraptions, which attendees are invited to play with. You can experiment with the "faith gain" and "reason gain" knobs of the St. Thomas Dual Fuzz Pedal. Or use the Congretation Synth, by forming a human-to-human circuit, via contact panels. There are even three light sensors on the window of the gallery which can by played from outside with cell phones or lighters - anything that emanates light basically.
UCSD Media Arts professor / artist, Michael Trigilio, is the guru behind these installations. A former ordained priest in the Zen Buddhist Tiep Hien Order before resigning, Trigilio uses SRE to explore alternate realities, in which the religions of the world are essentially replaced with audio effects. This concept is based on ideas emanating from his film, Bodhisattva, Superstar.
I visited Trigilio in the gallery as he prepped for the closing. While replacing batteries and enlisting me to help him tape wires down, he talks about the tone republican primaries have set, regarding religion. The national conversation has reverted back to 18th century religious ideas like, "whether or not its ok to put a shim-sham over your dingle-dangle," says the UCSD professor.
Not singling out any one religion, Trigilio then talks about art and religion, saying artists are afforded the luxury of being able to think more broadly about transcendence than a "Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, Imam, Zen Monk, etc."
Adding that artists "thrive on the challenge of thinking - how can I talk about transcendence in a way beyond the pulpit?"
Trigilio says the pulpit only allows one to talk about transcendence in a narrow way, "do these things, you'll be good - except this faith-based position, you'll achieve transcendence."
Whereas "an artist might say, 'well here's what transcendence looks like, here's what transcendence sounds like, here's what it would feel like if you had it and it was taken away, and you had it again.' And the pulpit isn't really interested in doing that. The Zen temple and the mosque and the church aren't interested in creating for you the experience, even momentarily, of some sort of transcendent experience. That's what drug dealers and artist do. I didn't set up shop as a drug dealer, but I did set up shop as an artist."
When asked about reactions, Trigilio tells me that people mostly enjoy the interactive nature of the devices, and specifically mentioned the Congregatation Synth, saying, "people enjoy the fact that they discover new ways of touching each other, I mean it's very kind of creepy and intimate, but I also think there's something kind of sweet about it."
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