Craig Colorusso is an artist whose installations often intersect sound, light and sculpture. His latest work Sun Boxes has been installed in a wide range of natural, outdoor environments and incorporates the sun’s solar energy and [at present] twenty responsive PC boards/ speakers. For comprehensive information please visit www.muudmusic.blogspot.com
ER. Can you explain how Sun Boxes [SB] works?
Craig Colorusso [CC]. It’s much simpler than it seems. Inside each box is a PC board with a sampler on it. On the sampler is a pre-recorded guitar note programmed to play continuously as long as there’s enough sun. Each Box has a different guitar note. Collectively the notes make a Bb6 Chord.
ER. Where did the idea come from? What are some of its influences?
CC. The short answer is in 2008 my longtime friend “Sexy” David Sanchez Burr called me up and said, “YO! Make something solar we’re going to the desert.” Then he hung up. He’s the kind of guy that when he calls, you take the call. So I thought about it for a few weeks and then in June of 2009 Dave and I went out to Ryhiolite Nevada with Richard Vosseller and we did “Off the Grid,” a residency at The Goldwell Open Air Museum. The objective was to make art using sustainable energy. Sun Boxes was my contribution.
Although I would cite Dave as a major catalyst for SB, the truth is it’s an idea that’s been brewing for a while. In the 90’s I was in a few different bands that had the opportunity of touring. I had a great time and loved the idea of being on stage but at some point I wanted to make something that people could feel like they were part of. At this time I was also becoming more interested in visual art. Combining the two seemed inevitable.
ER. Prior to Sun Boxes previous works such as MB 89 and CUBEMUSIC very much draw on light, sound and sculpture – how does Sun Boxes extend and compliment those previous works?
CC. MB 89 was first and helped me migrate from the stage and create an environment. MB 89 still has a performance element because I play Bass Clarinet for 4 hours, but it was a departure from performing in a band. It’s meant to be an installation and I think the best way to experience it is to check it out for a while, leave and then come back. I’ll be there. I’m often surprised how long people stay. In Nashville, there were three or four guys that camped out. I think they were there almost as long as I was.
CUBEMUSIC was the first self-contained piece. There is no performance to it. The cubes are set to play as long as there’s power. The sound of CUBEMUSIC lasts for 28 days. Unfortunately its longest continuous run was only five days in Atlanta. It was in a warehouse going 24/7 for 5 days. CUBEMUSIC also plays with the space more so than MB 89. The shadows that are cast in the room are very different in every room I’ve been in.
Sun Boxes takes the concepts of MB 89 and CUBEMUSIC further. SB is definitely an environment to enter and exit at will and it interacts with its environment. Unlike both previous works, where I have to go in and black out all the windows and create dark rooms for these pieces to exist, SB interacts with the landscape and Mother Nature. And is powered by the Mac Daddy of all light-The Sun.
ER. You also have a long history as a musician, playing in various experimental/avant garde scenes. How did the leap from music to more art-based projects transpire?
CC. I do love music. But at some point I wanted to do things that weren’t musical. Once I started to think about music outside of “The Song,” the world became a much bigger place. Music is tough there is very little room outside of the model presented. I just wanted to share my ideas with the world and doing that in the context of a music scene didn’t feel appropriate.
ER. Have you collaborated with others in making Sun Boxes? If so how has this helped, practically/conceptually?
CC. I had help. A friend helped me make the boxes themselves and another friend made the boards. It takes a village. I also have a kickass web crew that are working on a Sun Boxes app, that will allow 20 people to go out somewhere and recreate the audio of SB with mobile devices. I’ve been working with Filmmaker Kevin Belli for 2 years filming SB in exotic locales. The plan is to make a 20 minute documentary about the piece and then also make a multi-screen presentation of Sun Boxes in different environments. An installation of the installation.
ER. Is there an ideal way to experience Sun Boxes?
CC. One thing I keep noticing is how different SB sounds and feels in different locations. It interacts with the landscape so much that it really is different everywhere we go. I just did a few days in Martha’s Vineyard finishing up a film about SB, and in the span of a few days and a few miles the piece was on a farm, on a beach, in front of a gallery and on another beach. It looked and sounded different in every spot. I’ve been listening to the audio and it’s amazing to hear chickens and goats from the farm and to hear the waves crashing in the background of the Beaches. I’ve started to work on SB the 2XLP; the goal is to record Sun Boxes in a different season in a different state. And release it on vinyl with digital downloads. I love the idea of 4 seasons, 4 states, 4 sides.
ER. Effectively the piece has no beginning or end, or, if it does it depends on when the sun is out. How important is duration in your work and are you suggesting that nature is really controlling technology?
CC. The duration is important in all my pieces; Sun Boxes from start to finish is several months. That’s with sun and no participants getting in the way. As far as I know there isn’t anywhere on the planet where this can happen. So we’re on the verge of impossible. What I love is the interaction with Mother Nature. I feel like Sun Boxes is a system that interacts with the sun, wind, trees, birds, ocean… I would say I’m suggesting Nature as a worthwhile collaborator. I have a collection of great SB moments that I would have never come up with. Sometimes it’s better to sit back and see what unfolds rather than demand results.
ER. Is there an overriding message in the piece you would like to convey?
CC. Since there aren’t any batteries SB needs sun to work so I am very aware of nature. I would say I am humbled by nature constantly. When I wake up in the morning it’s either a good day for Sun Boxes or not. When the clouds cover the sun sometimes the sound of Sun Boxes stops. Sometimes you don’t get what you want when you want it. It’s nice to be reminded of this.
ER. Are there any plans in the future to expand Sun Boxes in terms of its scale?
CC. Originally I wanted to do 100-speaker version. I settled for the 20 speakers I have now. There is a 7″ of two field recordings from Massachusetts to be released 10.31.11. I’d like to keep document the piece in several ways including the 2XLP as well as a book and plan to finish up the film this winter. The website is going well and I hope to have the app soon.
ER. And finally as always Ear Room asks, what does the term ‘sound art’ mean to you?
CC. Making art using sound.
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