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The company of strangers 

In physically deconstructing a piano, one Smokebrush artist hopes to help reconstruct community

click to enlarge Each time someone pulls one of Tim Floods elongated - keys, a toilet flushes in Australia.
  • Each time someone pulls one of Tim Floods elongated keys, a toilet flushes in Australia.

Some people get lonely and put an ad in the personals: Hispanic female seeks Caucasian male, Old lady seeks cat, etc.

When Tim Flood gets lonely, he makes art.

Recently, Flood was looking for a way to make companionship a more perceivable sensation when he created "An Experiment in Space and Sound."

You know that feeling you get when somebody suddenly stands next to you at the video store? Flood really likes that feeling. After he moved from Flagstaff, Ariz., to Denver for school, he found himself going to coffee shops not to talk to anyone, but just to sit in the company of others. The 30-year-old artist thinks companionship is undervalued in an age of technological advances that paradoxically revolve around communication.

So Flood conjured up an installation to amplify the sensation of company. He found a piano and took the keys out, leaving the harp and hammers intact. Using a system of eye hooks and fishing wire, the artist strung the elegant, long keys from the ceiling of a room and let them dangle, within reach of participants. He then tied the other end of the wire to the hammers. The weight of the keys keeps the hammers taut against the harp strings inside the body of the piano.

Participants lift the elongated keys and then let them fall again, which releases the tension on the line and allows the hammer to fall against the harp strings and create the sound of a single note.

When two people play the keys at the same time, they lose the ability to pretend they're not in the same room together, as people so often do in library aisles and along clothing racks.

When Flood had the installation up at University of Colorado in Denver last summer, he liked seeing two people play the keys together.

"If there were two people that didn't know each other," he says, "their presences were interacting whether they meant to or not. It encouraged people to interact."

Flood's experiment was also inspired by the "missed connections" postings on craigslist.org. Flood found the list full of "people trying to get back a feeling they had when they experienced connections." In most cases, people are looking for strangers: You were in a green truck at the stop light, please contact me.

Flood believes our culture's prevalent loneliness and lack of connection result from our market-driven society. He hopes that people at his installation don't go home and sit at their computers alone that they take the harmony of the piano keys with them.

"The idea," says Flood, "is if we could sense our presence, if it made a sound, then two people's presence would make a different sound."

Frances Gomeztagle

"An Experiment in Space and Sound"

Smokebrush Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave.

Runs Aug. 3-Sept. 22; First Friday Artwalk Opening Reception: Aug. 3, 5-8 p.m.

For more information, call 444-1012.

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