Mackenzee Simms / Contributing Writer
Pete Schulte and Andrew Raffo Dewar held a reception and artist talk to explain their collaboration, “23 Minutes Over Birmingham,” which is currently on display at the Samford University Art Gallery.
“23 Minutes Over Birmingham” is both a visual and audio experience featuring the work of both artists. Pete Schulte, associate professor of Drawing at the University of Alabama, created the series of three drawings, while Dewar, associate professor of Interdisciplinary Arts at the University of Alabama’s College of Interdisciplinary Studies and School of Music, composed the 23 minute audio clip.
Rather than being two separate pieces presented together, Schulte and Dewar worked in tandem, which means the sounds inspired the drawings and the drawings inspired the sounds.
Schulte traveled to Dewar’s studio, where Dewar hooked Schulte up to a series of machines that collected biodata while Schulte drew. A cranial harness recorded Schulte’s brainwaves as a sensor on his arm tracked electrodermal activity. A contact microphone attached to the drawing board picked up the sound of Schulte’s pencil scratching against the surface.
Dewar explained how this biodata was manipulated to compose the auditory experience of the exhibit.
“It was the sounds of the making of his drawing, but also I orchestrated the biodata and made it drive different electronic sounds,” Dewar said. “For example, I would set up a threshold. If the biodata went above that threshold, it would kick out the sound. If it went below, that sound would stop.”
Schulte ascribes this set up as an essential fixture of the collaboration, giving one the opportunity to respond to the work of the other.
“We essentially had a private performance, just he and I, in a room for an entire day, while I was working on that drawing,” Schulte said, “So while we were building that catalogue of sound, I was building and structuring that drawing, but I was hearing his sounds which would affect the marks and the way that I developed the drawing. He was looking at what I was doing which was affecting the sound.”
“23 Minutes Over Birmingham” is not the duo’s first collaboration. Schulte and Dewar have been working together for the past seven years. In each subsequent body of work, Schulte and Dewar use an iterative approach, where each piece includes echoes of their former work. In “23 Minutes Over Birmingham,” some of the biodata is recycled from their prior installation “The Lamplighter: An Experiment in Drawing and Sound” in 2018.
Schulte and Dewar’s work will be on display in the Samford University Art Gallery until March 6, 2020. The gallery’s hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.