Jesse Blumenthal

Jesse Blumenthal's Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition uses sound elements incorporated into sculptures to create a feedback loop. The installation is in the Gallery of Visual Arts at the University of Montana.

Layers upon layers of thought and work have been put into Jesse Blumenthal’s “All Hat & No Cow” Master of Fine Art thesis exhibition.

The 3-D printed gramophone horns that clutter a metal tower like mussels stuck to the bottom of a boat were printed in a plastic-iron mixture, then rusted in an acid bath. A sculpture made of industrial wire has a twin that was cast in iron.

Train trellis-like scaffolding has iron casts of tree bark mounted onto them. A gramophone horn so big a person could crawl inside faces the room. A glass earpiece is mounted in the hole for listening.

Look high up on the wall and you can see an analog mixing board mounted, with wires leading to different sculptures.

But stand there long enough and realize there’s a buzz, then a louder buzz that builds to a squeal if you start talking too close to the hidden microphones.

Aside from all of the impressive ironwork, carpentry and sculpting, Blumenthal’s created a simple feedback loop, which draws on sound and electromagnetic waves to play back a signal.

Three golden gramophone horns, stamped with Victorian-style detailing, contain three microphones. Those, along with an FM transmitter, pick up the sound and waves coming from people and their electronics.

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Those sounds and waves are fed out through several speakers installed in other sculptures. That sound output goes back into the microphones, etc.

“Letting it go through multiple iterations of translation leads to a broken telephone effect,” Blumenthal said. It’s the “sound of the space.”

Knowing the inevitable result is an ear-piercing screech, Blumenthal assured he had manipulated the settings so it would get loud, but not abrasive.

“People can feel one way or the other (about feedback,)” he laughed. “And strongly.”

But the theory of an infinite, human-generated feedback loop was intriguing enough to Blumenthal that he wants to let it go as much as possible, within reason.

“This just happens to be what it does,” he said over a heightening drone.

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