Opening this summer at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC), The Sound of Things, featuring the work of artists Bohyun Yoon and Alyce Santoro, conceptualizes sound and its laden potential within objects and craft materials. The exhibition prompts visitors to ask: What does glass sound like? What does a sonic weaving look like? Yoon and Santoro have mined the history of their respective materials—glass and woven audio tape—to engage with these questions and make tangible what was once unperceivable.
Bohyun Yoon’s work explores sound as well as imperceptible modes of communication and social structures. The artist combines his medium of glass and its properties of vibration resonance, refraction, and transparency with accompanying video performances to make the invisible visible. His Glassorganism series takes the form of Japanese popen. These historical, hand-blown glass noisemakers are characterized by a hollow stem and bowl, connected by a thin glass membrane, which moves between convex and concave states when activated by human breath. After seeing this object depicted in an 18th-century woodblock print by Utamaro Kitagawa, Yoon began conceptualizing the sound it would emit and, after an experimental process of making, ultimately found that the form had potential as an instrument of both sound and light refraction.
The sonic potential of glass objects is expressed and explored in other series by the artist as well. Composed of varying blown-glass tubes with onomatopoeic names, each piece in Yoon’s Glass Tube emits a singular sound when warm air is blown through it, releasing ephemeral tones unique to each object. Harnessing the properties of historic “singing glasses,” Yoon’s Glass Helmets series offers water-filled helmets functioning as both musical instruments and prosthetic devices that amplify communication and social connection. The helmets’ spouts allow multiple wearers to change the water levels, thereby altering the tones produced.