by Gayle Chung
When no one is around, everything is silent. Only the art gallery guard sits at a desk in a corner of the Sheehan Gallery. But soon, the presence of visitors is announced by the sound of a large bell. Before the eyes of the observer, farming disks, reminiscent of inverted mushrooms, cover the gallery’s glossy floor, and muddy wooden stakes innocently dangle overhead, still and unmoving. With a plastic mallet in hand, the visitor hits the disks, sending a multitude of sharp rings into the air. The stakes sway back and forth as the orchestrator moves from disk to disk with childish amusement. More people enter the gallery, curious about the setup and the sounds reverberating through Olin’s halls.
Since August 26th, the Sheehan Gallery has housed this installation, entitled “Instrument Implement”, as the second component of Buster Simpson’s ongoing public art project “Walla Walla Bound.” But this exhibition is not the last creation in this series; “Instrument Implement” serves as a “sound laboratory for the future installation of a sculpture” that will serve as testament to the “ecological, economical and spiritual” values of Mill Creek in Walla Walla. This and the future installation of Simpson’s project seek to engage and enlighten the public by clearly identifying the benefits that Mill Creek bestows upon the Walla Walla community.
Whitman students, professors, and staff often come to the gallery with curious and questioning expressions on their face. Many slowly walk in the gallery, timidly looking around. But for those who have heard about the projects already, they know exactly what to do. They automatically grab a mallet placed next to the entrance and make a beeline for the farming disks.
“It’s something like stress relief!” said a visitor to the gallery. Walla Walla locals, too, have been visiting the gallery, hearing much about the exhibition and the artist. One particular local Walla Wallan, when asked what he thought about Simpson’s work, said, “I’m really excited to see how this all plays out. I don’t know too much about it, but I can’t wait to see how it will end up.” Before exiting the gallery, he said, “But before I go, I’m going to hit theses disks one more time.”
Also, in a room towards the back of the Gallery, the observer can learn a little more about the whole “Walla Walla Bound” project and get a taste of what the “Poetic License” component will entail. An “episodic series” of poetic observations will be printed on license plates and placed along the restored concrete walls surrounding the Mill Creek that pass through the urban sections of Walla Walla. Covering the back wall, several printed poems hang, intended to provoke thought in the viewer.
An opening lecture and reception will be held on Sep. 15th. Simpson will begin his lecture at 5 p.m. in Olin 130, where inquiring minds can ask any burning questions they may have about “Walla Walla Bound.” Or, if one wants to get more personal with Simpson, they can talk to the man himself during the opening reception, which will start at 6 p.m. The exhibition is on display until Oct. 5th.