Earplugs

Earplugs #3, 2021, Epoxy clay, acrylic paint, enamel paint, wood, metal, thermoplastic, electronics, sound, 1.5’x2.5’x3’

The earplugs series utilizes methodologies derived from corporate transmedia campaigns which release thematic content and narrative across different media formats. While making it, I felt compelled to observe its transformation from a single-purpose social construct into works of art, artifacts from experiments with self-talk within collective consumer culture.

It began with several short text-based scores that I composed in the form of guided meditations printed on the backs of earplug packages –consumer ear protection rebranded to facilitate self-reflection and meditation, individually composed for and targeted at an assortment of consumer personas.

The sound composition components in the project reference John Cage’s “4 ’33” which attempts to divert the audience’s attention from a silent piano concert to the outside environmental sounds surrounding the performance hall. In response, I try to direct the participant’s attention inward. While focusing on their own subjective physical and psychological space, they are left with their own voices, breathing, and swallowing sounds transmitted from their bones and tissue to their eardrums. Most notably, in an aurally challenged state, the participants might feel closer to themselves. While surrendering to their limited space and sound, they are more prone to take part in a conversation happening within themselves.

I developed a series of sculptural works examining the earplug shape and form as a positive inversion of the negative space within an ear canal, a potential embodiment of silence. The colorful protective forms complement the invisible, disruptive, disorienting, and harmful effects of noise pollution on humans and animals.

The sculpture version of “Earplugs” in the photo documentation above has electronic media components that perform a collection of sound compositions based on the original text-based scores. It makes use of the left and right stereo channels with a call and response between virtual voice actors conversing through voice synthesizers. Below are audio excerpts from the sculpture above and samples of packaging with text-based scores.