Kevin Beasley (b. 1985, Lynchburg, VA) engages with the legacy of the American South through a new installation that centers on a cotton gin motor from Maplesville, Alabama. In operation from 1940 to 1973, the motor powered the gins that separated cotton seeds from fiber. Here, the New York-based artist uses it to generate sound as if it were a musical instrument, creating space for visual and aural contemplation. Through the use of customized microphones, soundproofing, and audio hardware, the installation divorces the physical motor from the noises it produces, enabling visitors to experience sight and sound as distinct.
You can also check out a story The New York Times did on Beasley:
Microphones hooked up to the motor and connected to a synthesizer and a mixer will allow him to enhance and manipulate the machine’s eerie whirring and clicking, and to turn it into an electronic symphony of sorts. A few days before the show opened, Mr. Beasley worked inside the vitrine at the Whitney, painstakingly fine-tuning the microphones and at one point splaying himself over the motor to get the positioning right.
The results will be heard only in a discrete listening room: The sound is separated from the performance space, much as Eli Whitney’s invention separated cotton fibers from their seeds, performing the task at a greater speed than the human hand. Benches will encourage people to linger. Underneath them will be amplification equipment known as “butt kickers.” (The vibrations created are intense enough to border on a massage.)
“I used to D.J. at terrible Yale parties,” Mr. Beasley said, recalling his nights in graduate school.
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