Steve Rowell

Gloom & Doom I & II / Tactile Air I & II

In collaboration with SIMPARCH

Gloom and Doom and Tactile Air were dual street-level installations in Cincinnati’s Weston Art Gallery and the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). Using readily-available consumer products, SIMPARCH dramatically intervened into the architecture of both buildings. Sound compositions, Tactile Air I &2, provided by Steve Rowell, combine sonic booms and captured audio streams from the early days of conflict in Baghdad, Iraq in March of 2003. The sonic booms were recorded in the Mojave Desert beneath R-2508 Special Use Airspace Complex that includes the R-2515 High Altitude Supersonic Corridor.

Gloom & Doom I  / Tactile Air I
In Collaboration With SIMPARCH
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center For Contemporary Art
Cincinnati, OH, May - October 2006
Drop ceiling system, audio and electronic components. Surface area: roughly 50’ x 100’

The sound composition, Tactile Air 1, combines sonic booms from the Sonic Boom Archive project with captured audio streams from the early days of the conflict in Iraq in March of 2003. This provided a sonic overlay to SIMPARCH's stealth bomber shaped drop ceiling installation. Physically, Tactile Air is integrated into the installation as eight ceiling-mounted speakers and four subwoofers. Representing a distillation of the "shock and awe" phase of the war, the composition combines recordings from a CBS News webcam that had been mounted on a balcony of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. This aspect of the piece included pre-bombing sounds of Baghdad traffic and calls to prayer with air-raid sirens and explosions, as well as post-bombing sounds of generators, sporadic gunfire, and direct-feed, candid reporter banter, unintended for broadcast. Occasional distant sonic booms from the comparatively calm skies of Southern California provide a reminder of our own militarized airspace in America. In addition, a live feature of this installation consisted of Google news emails triggered by keywords (bomb, Iraq, terror). The automated delivery of these emails produced brief audio samples (bomb explosions, sonic booms, calls to prayer) that would interrupt the composed audio with real-time events from the war/media space outside of the museum walls. During the six-month installation of Gloom and Doom 1, more than 3,000 news alert sounds were triggered, without the direct intervention of the artist.

Gloom & Doom II  / Tactile Air II
In Collaboration With SIMPARCH
Weston Art Gallery, Aronoff Center For The Arts
Cincinnati, OH, May - June 2006
Two-story plywood structure, plywood furniture, two plywood staircases, plastic sheathing, carpet padding, folding outdoor vinyl tube chaise lounge chair, audio and electronic components, fluorescent light fixture and bulb, exit sign 

The second story of this installation exists as a sonic boom simulator — a custom-built anechoic chamber with gabled roof horns, acoustically activated with twin 450 watt loudspeakers, representing a physical manifestation of a sound wave and its trajectory from above. The composition entitled Tactile Air 2 – a looping high decibel playback of sonic booms inside of the chamber – is designed to replicate the actual volume levels experienced by residents living beneath military-controlled supersonic airspace. Large areas of the country have become familiar with this affected airspace since the aerospace boom following World War II. Constant technological developments during times of both peace and war ensure regular sonic booms for the indefinite future.

As of May 2012, a playback of select booms and incidental desert ambiance is being exhibited indefinitely at the CLUI Desert Research Station in the recently activated Sonic Boom Containment Vessel. Gloom & Doom I, Tactile Air 1 is a component of my Sonic Boom Archive project