“The artwork I make will deliberately not endure,” writes Susie Ganch when ruminating on her most recent bodies of work, now together at Penland School of Craft’s John and Robyn Horn Gallery. “The materials I collect and use will break down. They will become brittle and decay, rendering them unable to be passed on to future generations. Other pieces will participate in a circular economy, their parts disassembled, their materials reused. As a fourth-generation jeweler, I have cultivated a deep appreciation for how traditional materials are embedded with intrinsic and acquired values and meanings. However, it is the contradictory quality of heirlooms that I now explore through sculpture-installation. Trading metal for plastic, a ubiquitous symbol that celebrates our worship of the present and disregard for the future, I make anti-memorials born out of eco-anxiety. They point to how the accumulation of objects and our attachments to their narratives and material values can prevent us from making new histories.”
Susie Ganch is a sculptor, jeweler, and educator living in Richmond, VA where she is associate professor and head of the metal program for the Department of Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ganch received her MFA from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Part of her practice is directing Radical Jewelry Makeover, an international jewelry mining and recycling project that continues to travel across the country and abroad. Issues of waste and cultural habits of consumption are imbued through her work. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in museum exhibitions including Smithsonian National Museum for Women in the Arts (DC), Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Design Museum (London), National Gallery of Victoria (Australia), Ueno Royal Museum (Japan), Kohler Art Center (WI), and Milwaukee Art Museum (WI).
Included in this exhibition is Drift, a forty foot wall installation. A walk through metaphorical clouds where an incessant anthropocentric-age din floats across them, Drift is about a world oversaturated with mechanical noise.
Sounds that guided us and gave meaning to the world around us for millennia have been replaced. Instead, from a distance the whirl of highway traffic sounds remarkably like the sound of waves crashing on the beach. Air conditioning units generate enough noise to block out the sound of the wind rustling the leaves on the trees. More dire perhaps, is that we are using sounds from the natural world in new ways. Human ways. Melodic bird “calls” that once asked only of us that we listen can now be reminders of meetings or birthdays.
Drift explores the idea of harnessing sounds emitted or captured from the artist’s rose colored iPhone SE. Over the course of several months Ganch recorded a daily journal of sounds using the Voice Memo App. A soundscape of these layered noises drift discordantly across stylized clouds in a soft ceaseless auditory bombardment. Thousands of classic earbuds symbolize our increasingly mediated experience.
The one non-human or human-made noise is the “tweet” of the classic iPhone text messaging sound. A sound that is so ubiquitous that it may be more recognizable to some than the birds in their backyards. It turns heads in meetings, auditoriums, and classrooms, causing countless hands to reach out, grab their phones and check, “was that mine?” This ever-present and insistent call epitomizes distraction and a lack of presence. In Drift, Ganch deliberately takes that mechanical tweet and turn it back into a “real bird” by stretching, flipping, and twisting the sound. Convincingly authentic the rendered becomes the new normal.
Three different collages of sound drift across the clouds. Listen to a 2-minute segment of the 30-minute piece below.