Gary Simmons’s Prospect 3 Sound System May Travel

Simmons's work installed at Tremé Market Branch, an old bank, in New Orleans.COURTESY THE ARTIST, METRO PICTURES, AND SIMON LEE

Gary Simmons’s work installed at Tremé Market Branch, an old bank, in New Orleans.


Over at Bomb magazine, writer Jodie Bass has a great interview with Gary Simmons about his project at the Prospect 3 triennial (née biennial) in New Orleans, which is a hulking sound system made with wood that was sourced from all over the city. It’s titled Recapturing the Memories of the Black Ark (2014).

Here’s Simmons discussing the piece:

The Black Ark was the name of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s recording studio where he really developed the early dub reggae sound. He created a provocative space using found wooden materials around Jamaica. He was in an improvised setting, so he would use everything around him, corrugated roofing, found wood, metal, you know, whatever it was. Whenever somebody wants that booming sort of Reggae sound, they usually create that kind of tower. So what I really wanted to do was create a sculpture activated by live musicians. I used the Lee Perry spirit, so to speak, as my starting point. I really like the aesthetic of how he constructed an audio sound through an aesthetic gesture. I wanted a sculpture that was interactive. It’s a performance space. Basically, a performer is invited to play and they can reconfigure the speakers in anyway that they need. Not strictly hip-hop or reggae, it could be punk, or zydeco, second line, or jazz. All of their needs are different, so they can take their PAs out here, it doesn’t make a difference, I just want them to use it in a way that they see fit, whatever form that is. Then they are asked to leave the speakers in place, so there’s a trace of their presence and their performance.

Simmons also lets slip that he’s had invitations to show the work elsewhere, and that the Studio Museum in Harlem is perhaps interested in doing a project. Simmons:

I’d like it to go to L.A., Nashville, Chicago, Austin, wherever there’s a thriving music scene. I’d love to see some San Francisco punk band in here, just thrashing—not thrashing the speakers, but, you know…

Time is running low to see Prospect 3, which was organized by LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans. It runs through January 25. My colleague M.H. Miller attended the opening in October, and you can read his piece right here.

The full Bomb interview is here.

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