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Steve Roden: “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning and Memory in the American Civil War”, the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
Cabin John Run, unidentified photographer, ca. 1865, James E. Taylor Collection (photCL 300), Scrapbook 1, Page 6, bottom left. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
“A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning and Memory in the American Civil War”
the Huntington Library
San Marino, CA
Steve Roden’s completely silenced
The Huntington has commissioned visual and performance artist Steve Roden to create a site-specific sound work as part of “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning, and Memory in the American Civil War” (on view Oct. 13, 2012, through Jan. 14, 2013). The piece, titled completely silenced, references a series of photographs made by Alexander Gardner days after the September 1862 clash at Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history. A suite of these pictures, included in the gallery space with Roden’s work, depicts the human carnage of the battle’s aftermath. When they were exhibited at photographer Mathew Brady’s New York studio in 1863, a journalist remarked: “If [Brady] has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.”
Interested in the intersections of the rational and the intuitive, Roden’s work is a contemporary response to 19th-century photographs that yet retain the power to shock and provoke. He creates pieces that extract sound elements from objects, architectural spaces, and field recordings, using basic electronic processes to create new audio pieces, or “possible landscapes” and describes his work as “lower case”—sound concerned with subtlety and the quiet activity of listening.
Roden is an internationally acclaimed artist whose wide-ranging and versatile practice includes painting, drawing, sculpture, film/video, text, performance, and sound. He has been exhibiting his visual and sound works since the mid-1980s and has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally, including at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. He has performed his sound works at various arts spaces and experimental music festivals worldwide—including Serpentine Gallery, London; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis—and has created numerous site-specific works. His work is in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the National Museum of Art, Athens, Greece, among others.