APRIL 12 – MAY 10, 2013




In musical composition, an étude is a study focusing on a certain technique, honing in on a particular element and deriving as much from it as possible. ÉTUDE: WAVERING BODIES in this way is a live, real-time soundscape of a microcosm in flux. The space becomes a place for quiet meditation focusing intently on the behaviour of a singular, simple object in a changing environment. Through movement, material surface and timbre, the object speaks; augmented by repetition and multiples.



RACHAEL CHAISSON is an installation artist from rural Alberta, currently based in Calgary. She experiments with moving and noisy things in her studio practice and generally creating impossible tasks for herself. She holds a BFA from Alberta College of Art + Design.




Within a gallery, artists typically work in a controlled, safe space. Temperature, walls, and insurance create an environment of security for professional expression. They also combine to represent a microcosmic example of humanity’s success at controlling environments to establish and enable progress. A move into an indoor space is a move into civilized habitation, and into safety.

The indoor artistic space has developed into a safe place for controlled experimentation. It has been typified as a supportive environment to control the artist’s vision of how the work should be presented. It is within this place that Rachael Chaisson’s Étude: Wavering Bodies resides. The composition of the work is reinforced by the title word étude, which references the specific study of a certain skill or technique designed to improve proficiency, usually within music. The étude creates a structured environment where the simplicity of the exercise can lead to the complex articulation of a singular task, such as movement. But while Étude exists physically in the secure climate of the artist-run-centre, the notion of the artist in control is confronted. Étude challenges the idea of the artist as absolute ruler over one’s own artwork, and questions the definition of success as related to this control. It offers a vulnerable alternative to the “perfection” of manufactured objects, and chases the idea of the expert artist.

Étude is an installation that draws attention to the behavior of frame-backing springs exposed to superficial wind created by domestic house fans, and then subsequently highlights the phonetic and visual effects created by this artificial action.

Étude’s frame-backing springs have been liberated from their original manufactured purpose to support and hold together picture frames. As individuals they are small and freestanding on a three-dimensional support. Lined up in rows they appear rigid, organized, and hardly better off than they were in frames. But the whirring fans loosen and liberate the springs from their born sense of duty. Realities of spontaneity, chance, and destiny become apparent in the controlled yet uncontrolled environment caused by the “wind.” Constant and consistent blowing tries to keep the springs in perpetual motion, to avoid having them fall out of line, and maintain the installation’s peaceful audio effects.

The electronically generated fans, and their manufactured air, flow over the springs in a soundscape that feels fluid. It feels liquid and organic. Étude is as an installation that elicits authentic feelings within the viewer even if the stimulus for those feelings has been propagated by machines, and factory-fabricated, industrial materials.

The machine-made world of Étude is complex despite its apparent simplicity. Chaisson has built custom circuits to control each fan’s oscillation, thereby controlling the position of the springs. She has also added amplifiers to pick up and transmit the sound of their dancing on the hardwood surface. If a spring remains in its original position it responds to the wind by producing a harmonious sound, but if the wind should spin the spring out of its original position it turns into a state of rest and silence. Étude paraphrases the inherently unpredictable wind into a steady back and forth rhythm. But this stable rhythm and the controlled nature of the piece may be undermined by the gallery’s public nature. The living bodies will change the temperature of the room, the voices will change how the eerie sound of the springs are disseminated and consumed, and the movement of the crowd will create a live composition sensitive to the changing environment.

Chaisson’s work is appropriately titled, as it provides an opportunity to experience the effects of human presence in fixed and originally pristine environments. Within the gallery’s safe physical setting, Chaisson’s installation explores a delicate dance between vulnerability and perfection. It can stand as a balanced and coherent whole in constant motion, but at a very second, it risks a lapse into chaos and silence.



DAN ZIMMERMAN recently completed a project proposal for a landfill in New York that merged public art with clean energy production, He has published internationally on topics that explore the art market during periods of economic deregulation. His practice is multidisciplinary and primarily concerned with art as social commentary.

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