Dutch artist's Market Square installation invites public to 'play'
Examine Market Square from above and you might notice it looks like a giant record player.
Market Square, a social hub for Pittsburgh since the 1700s, received a major redesign in 2009 that gave it an additional circular aspect.
Dutch artist Allard van Hoorn noted the resemblance through satellite imagery on Google Earth.
“I saw immediately that it looked like a record player, so I decided to make it into a spinning disc,” said van Hoorn, who was selected from more than 80 entrants to design this year's Market Square Public Art Installation.
“We have a big, shiny pin that houses all the computer equipment and sound system, 960 feet of LED strips and transparent protectors that make the disc ‘spin,'” he said. “And there's a tonearm that moves as the record progresses.”
The public is invited to “play” the installation, titled “Mix-N-Match,” like they would a jukebox. The piece officially opened Friday night during Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's special Bicentennial Gallery Crawl.
Of course, to play music on a giant record player, you need music.
Over the past year van Hoorn made recordings around town, ranging from tap dancers at Point Park University, to steel drum players from Urban Pathways Charter School “playing” the Smithfield Street Bridge, to the organist from the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Other recordings include sound from Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Clean Team clean-up crew sweeping in unison and talking on their two-way radios, and sounds of tape ripping as the artist-in-residence leads staff and volunteers in an art project at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Hazelwood.
The exhibit will host live performances by some of the participants in coming weeks.
“We've got it on vinyl for DJs, and it will be available for the public to use,” said van Hoorn. “We're giving away the music on vinyl to anyone who wants it. People are free to use it to sample. It will be online at marketsquarepublicart.com, in a Soundcloud playlist.”
For van Hoorn, this project is a continuation of work he began elsewhere, involving music that evokes a distinctive sense of place, called “Urban Songlines.” It was inspired by ancient traditions of Australia aboriginal cultures.
“Aboriginals in Australia, since forever, ‘sing the shape' of their land,” said van Hoorn. “They sing the shape of the mountain range, water wells, and that's how they map and spiritually connect with it.”
The installation is the third in what has become an annual project of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the city's Office of Public Art. Last year, the program featured Jennifer Wen Ma's immersive forest-like installation, “A Winter Landscape Cradling Bits of Sparkle,” that gradually changed as signs of spring became more apparent.
“Market Square, in general, is quite busy nine to 10 months of the year,” said Leigh White, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership spokeswoman. “Once programming starts in the spring, it's generally very active. We were trying to think of ways to encourage people to come down and experience it now. Public art seemed a great opportunity.”