“Soundforge” in Portland

Contemporary museum’s new exhibit invites patrons to be part of the piece

By Jenny Wasson / The Bulletin

Published Apr 19, 2013 at 05:00AM

At most museums, “Do Not Touch” signs line the walls to protect the works of art. This is not the case with the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s new exhibit, “Soundforge.”

The museum encourages patrons to play the exhibit’s massive, gate-like steel structures with custom-made wooden mallets. And when they do, they become another component of the multimedia installation by metalsmith Gabriel Craig and composer Michael Remson. Combining video, audio and sculptural elements, “Soundforge” is on display May 16-Sept. 21 in the museum’s Upper Gallery in Portland.

The hand-forged steel structure works like a xylophone: striking the steel keys at various points creates different tones. Each key is tuned to complement a 15-minute music composition that plays repeatedly in the background. According to a release, the composition was “influenced by Balinese Gamelan and Philip Glass’ minimalistic music” and was created from “the recorded sounds of Craig forging steel in his studio.”

Craig and Remson began collaborating on the piece in 2009. “Soundforge” debuted at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in late 2011.

“This installation is truly unique because of its cross-disciplinary approach to craft and the element of audience interaction,” said Anna Walker, curator at the Houston museum, in a release. “As an exhibition, the piece promotes community engagement, collaboration among different types of artists, and an understanding of craft as a process of making.”

The Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art presents this exhibit as part of its SoundCraft series. The museum is located in Portland’s Pearl District and is one of Oregon’s oldest cultural institutions.

Museum admission is $4 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and free for children ages 12 and younger. For more information, visit www .museumofcontemporary craft.org or call 503-223-2654.