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ASU students create multisensory experience for gallery artworks

An art exhibition at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts allows patrons to not only view paintings but also hear how those paintings might sound. 

Image courtesy of Taylor Kinnerup/KTAR News; painting by Cam DeCaussin

“I hear what you’re seeing” opened in January and will run through April 26. The exhibition features seven visual artworks by six different artists. The artworks were annotated into sound pieces by a group of graduate students in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School of Music, both part of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

Each graduate student was paired with an artist, working closely together during the creative process. The students were asked to compose a three- to seven-minute sonic piece for their partnered artist’s composition.

One of those sonic artists, PhD student Shomit Barua, said the purpose of the exhibition was to create a multisensory experience. 

“Personally, I met with the artist Cam DeCaussin at his studio where I interviewed him about his process and shared some of my own impressions about his work,” Barua said. “It turned out our influences and aesthetics had a lot of overlap, which explains why I was drawn to his work in the first place. I composed my piece to reflect the tension in the painting, the duality of something both beautiful and unsettling.”

Opening night at the exhibition went well, according to Barua. He described this new expression of creating a multisensory experience in a gallery as “mind-boggling.”

“One of the interesting effects of this show is that patrons spend far more time in front of the paintings than they would otherwise,” he said. “You could almost see them step into the paintings and stroll through the brushstrokes.”

Barua said that the sound artists for this exhibition are currently in the process of collaborating on an extended live performance where the paintings will “converse” with each other. 

In addition to Barua, the featured sound artists include Devin Arne, Laura Brackney, Andrew Robinson, Jacob Smith and Gina Xu. The featured visual artists include Monica Martinez, Lara Plecas, Ellen Wagener and School of Art alumni Laura Spalding Best, Bill Dambrova and Cam DeCaussin.