Visual artist Mary Laube and composer Paul Schuette met at VCCA in February 2013 on what was each their first residency. After returning home, they kept in touch making collaborative work remotely and getting together when they could for a few days at a time. They refer to their work together as the Warp Whistle Project. Mary and Paul scheduled their recent VCCA residencies at the same time with the intention of exclusively focusing on a project.
The two “sound paintings” they created are visually stunning featuring colorful geometric minimalism paired with lively digital chirps, pitch glides, whooshes and what sounds like some poor sod falling down a well. It’s alien and futuristic and whimsical all at once.
Mary executed the artwork directly onto the wall with the mechanical elements incorporated into the pieces. In one, wire provides a spiral that counterbalances the colored triangles, in the other, straight lines radiate from a 3-D pyramid to the brightly hued round speakers. The pyramids cleverly conceal circuit boards, which generated the sounds.
Mary and Paul made a concerted effort to incorporate the electronic elements into the pieces and so obliterate the separation between sight and sound. “It was a very intuitive process,” says Mary. “Paul started placing speakers on one wall and I started placing triangles on the other. We then worked back and forth between the two pieces to see how the electronic materials could fit into the visual compositions.”
The sound did not come until after the speakers and visual elements were placed—a digital reaction to the visual information. Paul used a swoopier more glissandi language with the spiral piece and almost pointillist sounds to match the more angular work. He wrote a computer program that is constantly generating new combinations of sound. “The pieces were not composed to ‘talk’ to each other”, says Paul, “But when you spend a lot of time with them, you feel like they are talking to each other.”
This was the first time Mary and Paul had worked side by side from the beginning to the end of a project. “In the final analysis, it was a tremendous experience and the collaboration seems to have cemented itself,” says Paul. “We’re both really excited about the future of the work.“
The Warp Whistle Project’s most recent series of work was part of the Emerging Artists show at the Phyllis Weston Gallery in Cincinnati. STEIM a music technology research center based in Amsterdam is interested in Paul’s four-channel violin pick-up and hopes to make improvements to the design and potentially bring the device to the open market.
Mary received the Illinois National Women in the Arts Award in 2009 and a Project Grant from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts in 2014. marylaube.com paulschuette.com