Artist’s Notebook:
Melissa F. Clarke

September 9, 2013 | Marina Galperina

ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished piece. This week, artist Melissa Clarke talks about Untitled: Ice Gouge for Performance — her sound piece, installation and performance that sources field recordings of glaciers. The artist is also premiering footage of her performance of the piece at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn last month.

In a sense, several of my past works served as sketches to be integrated into the performance in the above video. I began using glass in reference to glaciers and landscapes carved by them at the same time I started composing sound with acoustic imaging data in 2006. The data I used profiled a river floor carved by glaciers.

sketch of acoustic imaging data and profile used for sound; glass sounds were often used where the darkest areas are found

As I studied seismic maps of Antarctica, especially focusing on the large dips and dredges dug by glaciers, glass continually proved itself to be an appropriate material both materially and symbolically.

looking at data and maps from the glacier carved terrain beneath the seas of Antarctica

Using my hands to cut the glass for my Untitled Antarctica installation based on interpretations of data, I created a video sculpture in an immersive environment including and again I used sonified data.

working with glass

Shortly after I made Ice Gouge, I was invited to perform in a series by Maria Chavez that challenged electronic artists to perform without electricity.

untitled antarctica: ice gouge

I decided to strike glass against glass and bow it with metal strings. I lit candles underneath as an homage to the transience of Earth’s climate. Interestingly, I learned the heat of the candles affects the resonance of the glass.

After my expedition last summer to the Arctic, during which I lived in small Greenlandic towns and met people that lived with the land and water shaped by ice.

I realized the I wanted to make a performance with field recordings gathered in Greenland, mixed with contact microphones and electronics to manipulate the sounds I’d performed with glass unamplified.

In Greenland, I recorded monstrous sounds of glaciers cracking. The voices heard in the performance are of hunters talking about their lives and experiences during the last 20 to 40 years of climate change.

I include anecdotal stories, conversations, the radio, dogs, and other daily life sounds. The glass I used for the performance at Silent Barn were re-purposed from an installation I titled Sila.

Here is Melissa F. Clarke performing Untitled: Ice Gouge for Performance at Silent Barn last month at an event in conjunction with MoMA’s Soundings exhibit.

(All images courtesy of the Artist; performance/video/sound editing: Melissa F. Clarke; Live video/sound recording: Nat Roe)

Previous Artist’s Notebook selects:

Artist’s Notebook: Jacob Kirkegaard
Artist’s Notebook: Tristan Perich

Artist’s Notebook: Daniel Temkin
Artist’s Notebook: Rick Silva
Artist’s Notebook: A. Bill Miller
Artist’s Notebook: Yoshi Sodeoka
Artist’s Notebook: Actually Huzienga 
Artist’s Notebook: Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw