Fourth Horizon

Fourth Horizon

Fourth Horizon is a meditation on the psychic pull of living in a city with water as a constant eastern horizon. The exhibition’s initial showing—at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago in spring 2016—brought video, sound, text, and sculpture together into an immersive installation and a series of public programs.

Photo:  Sean Su

Photo: Sean Su

Inspired by archival references to a theater stage built over Lake Michigan and a telepathy experiment conducted via radio broadcast, Fourth Horizon gives us a chance to explore the relation between the built and natural environments—and the spaces for imagination, connection, and alienation in daily urban life.

Set design and construction: Lauren Nichols & Britain Wilcock

Set design and construction: Lauren Nichols & Britain Wilcock

“Lake Stage” — Staging a Happening

Fourth Horizon grew directly from our research into hotels. In exploring what makes hotels such charged urban spaces, we began to examine the buildings themselves as bodies with life cycles akin to their human inhabitants’. While collecting images of hotels being built for our “Construction/Demolition/Salad” triptychs, we chanced upon an uncanny image of a theater stage built on a pier over Lake Michigan at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. In the image, no shore is visible, so the stage seems to float uneasily under the horizon.  

“There Is More Beyond” — (Re)conducting a Telepathy Experiment Broadcast

Our archival research into the original lake stage led us to news reports about a radio station that went on air from the same hotel in early in 1924. One of the station’s first broadcasts featured three scientists conducting a telepathy experiment, attempting to measure psychical connections between radio listeners and a studio audience. This fascinated us as much for its aspiration as for its impossibility. We invited dozens of writers across the country to respond to the seven prompts from the original experiment.  

"There is more beyond" - scoring the sound installation

We entered the recording studio, inviting a group of more than twenty participants to read from the collected prompts and responses. Those hundreds of recordings became the vocal foundation of a four-channel sound installation—randomized via algorithm—that “conducts” the telepathy experiment, constantly creating a different sequence of responses. We had the great pleasure of working with Stephan Moore to design the installation.

The installation was voiced by: Sarah Aylward, Susy Bielak, Matthew Corey, Rachel Galvin, Jamie Hayes, Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera, Dianna Frid, Cara Megan Lewis, Damon Locks, Jessica Love, David Macey,  Nuria Montiel, William Mazzarella, Didier Morelli, Ira Murfin, Claire Rice, Ellen Rothenberg, Eben Saling, Fred Schmalz, Holly Lee Warren, Bob Webb, and Angel Yasguirre.

A randomly generated, constant stream of recorded music plays through same four channels. The music—conceived by collaborating musician/composers responding to the lake stage video and the telepathy prompts—interacts fluidly with the voices to create unexpected aural and emotional resonances.

We worked with six musicians including Ted Gordon (Buchla Synthesizer), Jeremy Harris (Piano), Seth Parker Woods (Cello), William Mazzarella (Guitar), Joseph Clayton Mills (Electronics), and  Adam Vida (Drums). Each played solo.

Fourth Horizon — ESS as Laboratory

Our exhibition at Experimental Sound Studio acted as a laboratory for the production of alternate audio scores for the project. We hosted three public programs in the studio’s live room: “Spontaneous Cases,” a reading of experimental short stories with a live sound mix by Damon Locks; “Bodies of the City,” a participatory chorale reading of poems related to water and architecture; and “Afternoon for Improvisors,” an event where improvising musicians responded to the installation.

Video production crew for Lake Stage:

Meredith Zielke, director of production; Rodrigo Brum, Lyle Kash, and Julia Pello, cameras; Lauren Nichols and Britain Wilcock, stage design and construction; Hasan Demirtaş, Michael Garrity, Raul Jaimes, Lyle Kash, Nicole Mauser, and Greg Mrowka, crew; Julia Pello, video editing.

Video Still: Meredith Zielke

Video Still: Meredith Zielke

"Lake Stage" — Silent Video

After living with the image—a readymade of sorts—for a year, we brought it to life in the form of a quarter-scale model, created for video, that we populated with sound instead of actors.

Photos:  Julia Pello  and  Lyle Kash

Isolation Booth

As a counterpoint to the Lake Stage video, we created an isolation booth modeled after testing stations used in telepathy experiments from mid-20th century laboratories. Just as the video is a site of projection, the isolation booth is a site for interiority.


"Bodies of the City" — Near-Unision as Psychical Connection

The participatory program “Bodies of the City” asks audience members to read two poems—which scroll by, projected on a screen—in a recording setting. The recordings are then layered to create a chorale effect of many voices reading in near-unison.

In our research, we have been considering bodies of the city—bodies of water, buildings as bodies, and our own physical bodies. The poems are designed to function both as scripts for performance and scores for video projection: “Lake Stages” integrates physical characteristics and personal anecdotes relating to water; “Physical” employs erasure to transform a hotel property assessment into an oblique doctor’s physical, in the process blurring the anatomy between built structures and human bodies.

Putting simple constraints on the public program—modulating the scrolling the text, isolating voices into individual microphones, having audience members read in small groups—invokes the tension between individual voices and chorales, recalling meditation, karaoke, and worship.

Curatorial Statement

Gaston Bachelard once offered that liquidity is the natural state of language. Is the lake full of words and emptiness? Full to the brim of what defies the solidity of things? The limitless horizon of the lake is an evanescent and receding beacon. Ashore and awash, Susy Bielak and Fred Schmalz embrace the pseudoscientific and the sublime. Where does this particular sublime come from? Perhaps from resuscitating the limitless desires of pre-computing, pre-televisual optimists, before experience flattened itself onto screens framed to funnel vision, desire and language into a bloated trickle of data. The lake has no screen, no frame – not even the shore. It sloshes about absorbing sunlight, telepathies, antipathies, songs, revelations, hoaxes; and blends them indiscriminately, unflattenably soaking the stockinged feet of these artists firmly planted in the vacillating silt of terra incognita.

Lou Mallozzi, 2016