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News

Course Spotlight: 4-D Sculpture, Sound, and New Media

  • Troy Briggs, adjunct professor of art, uses a Chladni plate to demonstrate the movement of sound during a J-Term course. D...
    Troy Briggs, adjunct professor of art, uses a Chladni plate to demonstrate the movement of sound during a J-Term course. Different frequencies cause sand on the plate to form different shapes.
    Carthage College
June 25, 2013

The cassette transformed a vibrating cell phone into a chainsaw, while jaw-popping, gurgling from Lake Michigan, and other mundane noises became hair-raising horror-film material. That’s the theme Emily Oliver ’16, an English and studio art major from Romeoville, Ill., scared up for a recording project in her J-Term art class.

Troy Briggs, adjunct professor of art, uses a Chladni plate to demonstrate the movement of sound. Different frequencies cause sand on the plate to form different shapes.

Troy Briggs, an adjunct professor of art, assigned his 14 students to make recordings on the retro tapes as part of a course titled 4-D Sculpture, Sound, and New Media. Time is often referred to as the fourth dimension, so the course focuses on two of the artistic media — light and sound — that typically change the most over the time that someone observes them.

Prof. Briggs wants students to understand how both phenomena operate in space as volumes. The light portion of the class features the effects of prisms and lenses.

Besides making mix tapes with the help of contemporary software like Garage Band and Reaper, students spent time in the sound portion of the course searching for silence. Prof. Briggs wanted them to “be conscious of the creaks, hums, and buzzes that happen in the world even though we tend not to pay attention.” Later, they mapped out some of the best locations to experience interesting sounds.

Prof. Briggs, who recently earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is teaching at Carthage for the first time. His portfolio includes works of both light and sound. A fabricator of photo booths by trade, he also is building a machine to translate the wind’s motion into Morse code.

“Even though I know the wind is just flapping around randomly, I’m excited to see what those first few words are,” he said.

Though not as widely practiced as painting or sculpture, this type of art known as phenomenology does have its devotees. In fact, Prof. Briggs plans to submit the students’ cassette recordings to a mix tape art show in Portland, Ore.