Wappen Field is a sculpture and sound installation comprised of 12 chrome plated steel helmets resembling face guards. Each helmet is a resonant chamber, where their dedicated speakers transform the sculptural installation into an immersive audio environment. Vocal recordings created for Wappen Field by Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, culled from seven diverse performers, are composed by Michelle Jaffé & and spatialized algorithmically by David Reeder in SuperCollider.
The visual and sonic configuration explores humanity’s inclination to arm, clothe and conceal, exposing the strategies we adopt to belong and protect ourselves from pain or annihilation. Armor is probed as a metaphor for public and private personae. We are confronted with the tribalism and militarism of our current social space. Over time I have come to understand, Wappen Field is my deeply considered meditation on 9/11.
The term Wappen, the German word for Coat of Arms, is used for its potential to impart expanded meaning, updated for the twenty first century. It suggests brand, a badge identifying groups such as family, team, tribe and religious order. Shadows of helmets on the floor reflect this emblematic idea, suggesting a logo for a new group or a cartoon action hero. Suspended and spot lit from above, the height and form of the helmet implies the body below.
Wedding sculpture with sound creates a participatory experience where each element forges a sum greater than their individual parts. The installation is a space of visceral possibility, igniting the memory and subjective experience of participants engaging in the work. Visitors perceive sound spatially. Male & female voices are dynamically dispersed throughout the helmets, creating dissonance, rhythms & vortexes of sounds. Discord, anguish and cacophony evolve into & out of a primal sense of vulnerability & grace, in a way that imagines the collective unconscious as energy, propelled between impulses of aggression and concord.
Walking into and among the helmets, participants may experience the sea of helmets as a field of souls dispossessed of their bodies. For others, it may evoke a graveyard, where we perceive our ancestors and future descendants as one with us in the present. Some may experience the frontal presentation and the precision of the configuration as a militaristic assault. The helmets evoke armor, which protects and hides us in an attempt to create a border between self and the other. Information and objects are obstructed. Physical and psychic space is guarded, unless the edge is pierced, allowing foreign bodies and ideas to flood in. The boundary of armor asks the question: what is shut in, what is shut out?
Wappen Field asks us to consider what we, as human beings, share in common with one another, as well as what divides us. Experiencing the work we may be reminded that while civilization evolves and technology races ahead, the basic tenets of human existence are the same. Humanity appears to be tethered to its limbic brain, pulling us again and again into conflict. This installation is an occasion to imagine the unconscious as energy driven by collective subliminal desires. These proclivities shape societies. Political and economic regimes reflect this rhythm, shuttling through the pendulum of history, between repression and enlightened engagement.