Sounding Moby-Dick

Lawrence LaBianca & Donald FortescueSounding, 2009
Steel, rocks, polycarbonate, zip ties, hydrophone, digital recorder, iPod, speaker, seaweed, natural patina
120” x 120” x 48”

WHAT: The table is made of steel rods and filled it with beach rocks, then it was lowered into the ocean near Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, where over the course of two months it accumulated living accretions from the ocean. Atop the table is an oversize sound-amplifying funnel reminiscent of the hailing horns used on whaling ships, which is constructed of laser-cut panels of polycarbonate lashed together with nylon zip ties. The horn amplifies and concentrates a sound recording made by a hydrophone close to where the table was submerged.

WHY: Sounding derives from the book Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, which has long been a source of inspiration for LaBianca and Fortescue. Their fascination with Moby-Dick comes in part from its detailed evocation of the bygone crafts of sailing and whaling and the struggles of men at sea, and also from its powerful and ever-relevant dissection of monomania. Through this work they aim to conjure the era of the book’s writing through the use of period forms such as a cabriole-legged table and hailing horn, while making it also very much of the moment by incorporating contemporary sound recordings and digital fabrication technologies. 
'Sounding' provides a direct link to the living oceans surrounding the Bay Area through sight, sound, smell, and touch. In both form and concept it also links to the historical, literary, and metaphorical oceans of Moby-Dick.

BY: Lawrence LaBianca and Donald Fortescue, originally developed for Bay Area Now 5 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.