I never quite understood the movie The Matrix, or its successors. To me, the film felt like a dream: sequences of broken narrative without connective tissue, out of time, set to a soundtrack that was equally disorienting. When I stepped into the corridor of Cenk Ergun’s “Panta Rei,” a sound installation unveiled last weekend at the Indianapolis Art Center, The Matrix immediately sprung to mind — and ear. Set in the Art Center’s Nina Mason Pulliam Sensory Path, which cuts through the center of the east parking lot, Ergun has transformed the densely landscaped space, seemingly sprung from concrete, into a sound garden.
Ergun, a native of Turkey who now lives and composes in Oakland, Calif., created “Panta Rei” as an interactive installation — the green speakers sense your presence and sound off as you pass, giving new meaning to the puzzle if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If you don’t pass the green cones, they don’t make a sound. But what about a raccoon or a chipmunk, or even an errant skateboard from the nearby Monon Trail?
Ergun took the name “Panta Rei” as inspiration from 6th century B.C. philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (now Efes, in Turkey). Heraclitus is credited with the wisdom “Everything flows,” and “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” This is true: I made my way up and down the walkway several times, and the response of each speaker was unique as it emitted a combination of sounds the composer culled from audio recordings of the nearby White River. I could pick out the unmistakable sounds of rain falling and the slight percussion of insects, but all else was abstracted — the voices of animals and people becoming a sort of brooding, urgent chorus.
Ergun achieved the mind-splitting feel of a dream by almost literally pulling apart snippets of sound. With the use of his computer, he lengthened and compressed, stretched and slowed, reversed and fast-forwarded the various sounds at his disposal using digital audio processing techniques. Each speaker contains 105 different audio clips, randomly selected at the detection of a passerby.
Kudos to the Art Center for welcoming such collaborative innovativeness, and grounding it, so to speak, in the context of place. Nature and technology are unlikely bedfellows, but in this case, they comprise a complex but intriguing marriage. The installation is a fine edition to the Art Center’s growing and rotating collection of outdoor works in its ARTSPARK.
Visit “Panta Rei” anytime at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St., 317-255-2464, www.indplsartcenter.org."""