Audio Flag by Aaron Rosenblum
June 14 2020 to July 4 2020
Audio Flag was an installation at Sheherazade by Louisville-based artist Aaron Rosenblum. The installation is a reinterpretation of Nam June Paik’s Video Flag (1996), the first piece of video art acquired by the Smithsonian Hirschhorn Museum, Washington, DC. This exhibition began at dusk at Sheherazade from June 14th (Flag Day) and was be on view each night from 8pm to 6am, through July 4th, 2020.
The below text was written by Aaron Rosenblum for the exhibition Audio Flag at Sheherazade in 2020:
Four television screens in Rosenblum’s installation show video footage and emit sounds recorded by the artist at the Hirschhorn Museum in June, 2019. The videos focus in on the surface of museum’s marble floor, where Nam June Paik’s Video Flag is reflected in an upside-down version of itself. The audio recordings capture the sounds of the room where Paik’s work is displayed, including the hum of the electronic equipment, and the occasional echoing voice. Collaged into these ambient sounds are audio recordings of the May and June, 2020 protests in Louisville, Kentucky in response to the extrajudicial state murders of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee.
Conceived in late 2019 without the newly-introduced sounds of protest, Rosenblum’s Audio Flag was originally intended as a more generalized meditation on an America seemingly lost in its own funhouse mirror refractions and being drowned out by the droning noises (intentional or otherwise) of its technologically mediated self-image. The artist also drew on a series of connected experiences stretching back three decades: His first encounter with Paik’s work, one of the John Cage series of stacked television assemblages shown in 1990 -1991 at the Katonah Museum of Art in the artist’s home town; two decades of experimental and sound art practice centered around ideas originated or perpetuated by both Paik and Cage; the trip to Washington, DC in 2019 during which the recordings of Video Flag were made; and participation in and documentation of the recent demonstrations in Louisville.
With Audio Flag, Paik’s frantic, jittering, televised version of the stars and stripes is inverted (usually a sign of distress or protest) and washed out, the effects of reflecting off an imperfect surface. The specific, fleeting patriotic images and TV stills of the original are lost in the blur. Attention is refocused on the audio inadvertently created by the piece, now intentionally reintroduced, amplified and accompanied by the urgent sounds of today’s ongoing racial justice movements. The acrylic sheet added to the gallery floor simulates the reflective floor of the Hirschhorn and offers yet another inversion: the flag is once again right-side-up, but rendered even less distinct by this additional reflection. The sounds of the recent and ongoing protests for Black lives offer a new narrative of clear-eyed and clear-voiced intention breaking through the drone and re-establishing (or simply establishing) a vivid, inclusive, and just America.
Aaron Rosenblum (b. 1981, Mount Kisco, NY) is a sound artist, musician, archivist, and curator. His works promote active engagement with local and global soundscapes and media environments. He relies heavily on the practice of listening, often represented in his works through the use of field recording and found sound. Recent work has been featured in the inaugural KMAC Triennial and at the Huff Gallery (Spalding University), and will be included in the 2020 CMCA Biennial (Rockland, ME). His radio works have been broadcast on stations in Europe and North America, including Incubate Radio (Netherlands), WFMU (Jersey City, NJ), CKUT (Montréal, QC). Ongoing projects include Kentuckiana Sounds, a community sound map of the Louisville metropolitan area, and I’m a Wrangler Man, which utilizes found text and prepared audio to investigate themes of masculinity, branding, and information literacy. He has delivered presentations or workshops at Invisible Places (Portugal), the Kentucky College of Art and Design, and Bayside Arts (Northport, ME), and has curated exhibitions and events at the Filson Historical Society and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. He was the August 2018 COLLIDER artist-in-residence at the Louisville Free Public Library and the recipient of an Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 artist grant (2019) and a Great Meadows Foundation curator travel grant (2017). He received a BA in experimental music from Hampshire College (2003) and a Masters of Library and Information Science from McGill University (2010). He lives with his wife and collaborator Andrea-Jane Cornell and their dog Lorraine in Portland, Maine.