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 that strategically release fragments of narrative content across disparate formats. While making it, I felt compelled to observe its transformation from a mundane single-purpose social construct into works of art, artifacts from experiments with self-talk within a noisy collective consumer culture.

I started writing and laying out several short text-based scores in the form of guided meditations to be 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. If they speak, they can hear their own muffled voices, breathing, and swallowing sounds transmitted from their bones and tissue to their eardrums. Perhaps in such a quiet place, they might imagine sounds, replay memories like music, or feel inclined to speak honestly with 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 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.