This project will take place at the Knockdown Center and it is Art in General’s first partnership with the Maspeth-based institution. The exhibition title refers to the moment on a film set when crew and actors pause in order for the sound mixer and boom operator to record room tone, the subtle location-specific sound present in every space. Weaving narrative between film segments and object-making, O’Daniel will create a layered and immersive installation. Based on collaborations with three contemporary composers, Steve Roden, Christine Sun Kim, and Ethan Frederick Greene, O’Daniel builds a visual, aural, and haptic vocabulary through varying levels of access to information such as color, sound, and storyline.
The exhibition will include new elements from O’Daniel’s long-term film project The Tuba Thieves, made in the wake of a recent rash of tuba robberies in Southern California schools. The film draws together fictional recreations of actual events surrounding the students, band directors, and school communities who must reconcile with missing sound following the thefts. This narrative is interrupted and shaped by the reverberations of two historic concerts: the 1952 premiere of John Cage’s 4’33” at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, NY and a 1979 punk concert hosted by Bruce Conner at The Deaf Club in San Francisco, as well as other referential interludes. Reversing the typical process wherein a composer responds to filmic imagery, here O’Daniel builds visual sequences based on listening. The screenplay is made in response to commissioned musical scores by the three composers who were given initial prompts by the artist, including drawings by Sophie Tauber Arp and a Zamboni driver’s looping path as a map for minimal music. These materials that served as starting points for developing the film score also initiated the sculptural components within the exhibition installation.
O’Daniel’s engagement with different mediums is a type of call-and-response, building upon and transforming the specific language of one onto another. Experimental and documentary film collapse and coincide with sculpture and installation, in a collaborative process that highlights the inevitable loss or re-creation of information as it passes through various channels. The presentation purposefully disables audience members’ normative perception of events and materials in order to present new modes of listening and seeing. Emphasizing subjects’ relationship to silence or unavailable sonic elements, Room Tone draws on O’Daniel’s own experience as a hard-of-hearing artist. The project’s form of exploded storytelling results in a performative arc that is less reliant on traditional script structure and more on physical choreography and collaboration. The audience is guided through narrative holes, unknowns, and missing parts in order to engage in a process of deep listening that aims to extend far beyond the aural realm.