Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meet Jo Ann Fleischhauer

Musiqa is delighted to be a part of What Time Is It?, a public art installation at the Louis and Annie Friedman Clock Tower, also known as the Market Square Clock Tower, in downtown Houston’s Historic District.  Marking Musiqa’s first-ever collaboration on an outdoor artistic installation, What Time Is It? explores the concept of time and the relevancy of its physical markers in a digital age, using visual arts and music to interrogate the place of a clock tower in our everyday lives.  Organized by the Houston Arts Alliance and the Blaffer Art Museum, What Time Is It? features the work of visual artist Jo Ann Fleischhauer and music by Musiqa Artistic Director Anthony Brandt and Houston composer Chapman Welch.   Musiqa’s Season Opener, Time Travel will kick-off the installation as the concert opens with the first “tolling” of the musical installation and the lighting of the tower.

Artwork by Jo Ann Fleischhauer

Fleischhauer and Brandt share a mutual fascination in the intersection of their respective arts, along with an interest in the way the arts intersect with other fields.  The recipient of two Individual Artist Fellowship Grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, a Houston Endowment Grant, a City of Houston's City Initiative Grant as well as grants from Connemara Conservancy, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, Buffalo Bayou Artpark, Tacoma Contemporary, and Project Row Houses, Fleischhauer is a multi-media sculptor and installation artist who lives in Houston.  After meeting several years ago during an arts interview, Fleischhauer and Brandt discovered they were both exploring artistic connections to nanotechnology: Fleischhauer was an artist-in-residence at the Department of Nanomedicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, integrating science and art through nano research. Meanwhile, Brandt was composing Nano Symphony, a celebratory piece to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the Buckyball by Rick Smalley, Robert Curl and Harold Kroto, who shared the Nobel Prize award in Chemistry for the discovery of a new form of carbon, buckminsterfullerene ("buckyballs"). 

Artist Jo Ann Fleischhauer

With an additional interest in art and architecture, after concluding her residency at UT, Fleischhauer began searching for inspiration for a new project by exploring Houston architecture. “I use unintended art spaces as the physical and conceptual infrastructures for the project installations. I respond to the architecture by integrating and layering historical aspects of the spaces and locations with their connections to the present," she said.

The Market Square Clock Tower was originally built more than a century ago for Houston’s City Hall.  After the old City Hall was destroyed, the clock was placed in storage and eventually ended up in a junkyard.  Ultimately saved from destruction, a new tower was constructed to house the clock, and the clock was brought to its new home in Market Square in 1996.

Fascinated by the history of the Market Square Clock Tower, Fleischhauer decided to take a closer look at the clock tower's relevancy from both a historic and modern day perspective. 

 "Historically, the clock tower was used for telling and tolling time, emergency warnings and calling the community to church," Fleischhauer explained.

Artwork by Jo Ann Fleischhauer

Fleischhauer and Brandt began to brainstorm about the potential of creating an installation centered on the lost purpose of the clock tower.

“I wanted to transform the physical clock tower by making it disappear,” Fleischhauer explained. “I played with that idea by lining the inside columns with mirrors."

The mirrors will reflect off of each other to make half of the clock tower visually disappear as an expression of Fleischhauer's exploration of the relevance of the clock tower. During the night each clock face will project an image, created and printed by Fleischhauer, expressing different visual perceptions of time. 

 "One clock face has notes that Galileo took while observing Jupiter," she said.

She will also explore the concept of our 'interior time,' including vital functions like a heartbeat or pulse. The images she used for this concept build on an experiment that began in 1977 aboard The Voyager. Sounds and photographs were recorded to attempt to communicate with extra-terrestrials. Currently, the Voyager is about to leave our solar system. “The heartbeat and brain waves of a woman who worked on the project were recorded on a Golden Record," Fleischhauer explained. "Her brain waves and vital signs could have indicated something specific, for example, our interior feelings and how they are registered."

When Fleischhauer first approached Brandt about concealing the clock tower within an art installation, she considered the idea of a bell that no longer rings.  Surrounded by the church bells of the Episcopal Church as a child, Fleischhauer wanted to recreate the experience of connecting sound with time, transforming the area around the Market Square clock into a performance space. 

Artwork by Jo Ann Fleischhauer

"I thought about Tony [Brandt] composing a piece using the clock tower bell," Fleischhauer said. "And using the bell as a way of NOT telling time, but as a musical component. Even if people didn’t use the clock tower to tell time, would it disrupt their everyday perceptions if it didn't ring at the “correct time?”
Fleischhauer also installed a spiral staircase that leads up to the clock tower's bell.  Throughout the exhibit, student composers from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and University of Houston’s Moores School of Music will perform monthly from the tower in a musical expression that places music once again within the clock tower. 

The installation runs through March 28.  In addition to the ongoing musical installation, throughout the 6-month period, Musiqa will present the world premieres of ten new works.

As part of the initial celebration, Houston Downtown Management District launches its fall season of Market Square Park concerts by inviting Musiqa to present TimeTravel.  Featuring some of Houston's finest performers, the program includes exciting works by Louis Andriessen, Michael van der Aa, John Corigliano--all winners of classical composition's highest honor, the Grawemeyer Award--as well as "Dance Mix" by Musiqa's own Rob Smith.    The concert opens with the first "tolling" of the musical installation and the lighting of the tower."

Stay tuned to the Musiqa blog to learn more about this exciting project as we share how Musiqa Artistic Director Anthony Brandt and sound designer/composer Chapman Welch collaborated on What Time Is It? to explore the connection of sound and time within the modern world. 

Time Travel is made possible by the generous support of Houston Downtown Management District.   What Time Is It? is organized by Blaffer Art Museum and Houston Arts Alliance.  Major support comes from the Houston Downtown Management District and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.  Community partners include Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.  The exhibition is on view 24 hours-a-day (music component audible daily 7 a.m. to midnight) on the corner of Travis and Congress Streets at Market Square from September 28, 2013 through March 29, 2014.

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