INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
San Francisco Chronicle FEBRUARY 17, 2001 - by Jesse Hamlin
ENO ASSEMBLES LUSH SOUNDSCAPE
An urban retreat within SFMOMA
Brian Eno likes spaces of contemplation amid the hurly-burly of big cities.
He has created one at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in a dark room where floating electronic sounds hum, ring and vanish, and strings of tiny white lights rise to the ceiling from gossamer pods that remind him of jellyfish.
Eno, the esteemed British musician and artist who used the term "ambient" to describe the subtle, spacious sounds on his pioneering 1978 album Music For Airports, cooked up the installation for SFMOMA's exhibition 010101: Art in Technological Times, which opens March 3.
"It's an idea for a kind of retreat people can go to in the city," says Eno, who was there yesterday tweaking the piece, which he describes as a sort of "simulated forest" of the future. He gave it a "deliberately clunky" title - New Urban Spaces Series No. 4, Compact Forest Proposal - "because I want it to be like an architectural submission for a new space."
Eno says the mannequin that stands ghost-like in the corner - becoming visible only when the eye adjusts to the darkness - is the architect (procured from the Gap).
Arching along the walls like sculptures are eleven CD players and a series of square grids with tiny speakers. They emit a wide range of sounds - sparkling bells and rubbery underwater bass tones, celestial hums and whooshes, guitars and gongs - that glide and cluster in random patterns (among other things, Eno synthesized the voice of a Japanese waitress).
"I don't know exactly what combinations are going to happen," says Eno. "The cards are constantly being shuffled differently."
He originally wanted to bring real tree trunks into the museum. But they would have required fumigation to ensure that "the bugs wouldn't eat the museum's collection." Instead he chose the lights, which suggest growing things as well as "bubbles coming up from underwater" and "rockets going into the sky.
Visitors sometimes sit dream-like for an hour in his installations, Eno says, contradicting the notion that people have short attention spans. "I'm trying to seduce people so that they want to stay longer and slow down a little bit. People enjoy their own company. That's what's going on in there."