Permanence Is an Illusion: The Fire Spirit
Guillermo Galindo’s West Wall project, Permanence Is an Illusion: The Fire Spirit, is a sound healing sculpture made from detritus left behind in immigrant neighborhoods after the Napa Valley fires of 2017. This work brings a quiet but haunting soundscape to the Fund’s offices.
Galindo’s work redefines the conventional limits between music, the art of music composition, and the intersections among visual art, politics, humanitarian issues, spirituality, and social awareness. He has been awarded two Creative Work Fund grants — in 2003, for a collaboration with Chris Brown and Galeria de la Raza to create Transmission Mission; and in 2015, for his Border Cantos project, as described in the artist biography below.
My latest works have been based on the power of personal objects rescued from extreme situations and the healing power of the sounds they generate. In the pre-Columbian world, there was an intimate connection between a sonic object and the material from which it was made. For the pre-Columbian cultures, there was no separation between the spiritual and the physical world. For this reason, the sound of an object was tightly connected to its reason for being.
Permanence is an Illusion is made from the decimated remains rescued from immigrant neighborhoods of the California Napa fire of 2017. It is a sound healing installation constructed from the detritus left behind. The twisted metal garden railing, three pieces of burnt wood, a half-burnt wine box, and a large piece of iron are activated with discrete and very specific frequencies, which resonate within themselves and give a unique, singing voice that narrates the story from the point of view of the objects.
Copper rings carefully attached to the railing, sitting on a copper plate, will rattle when low frequencies are applied to the thin plate where it rests. Microscopic vibrations of metal rings produce a rattling noise, which simulates the sound of an intense breeze morphing into a thunderous sound that happens unexpectedly and sporadically within the lapse of three hours’ time. For a brief moment, each tiny piece of metal will vibrate only to its resonating frequency through the flow of energy generated by a transducer.
The female fire spirit is represented by a humanized iron target plate that watches us with her mid-eye. She permeates sound waves from her whole body, which resonates at its own rate in response to a second transducer.
The negative fire spirit’s silhouette (male) surrounds the center of the wine box. Sitting on top of the wine box, the melted garden railing simulates the core of an unknown galactic imaginary plant.
The light green oxidized copper leaves invite the rebirth of a new life cycle.
Just like a well-tuned clock, the sounds of this piece are reminders that life is a gift, that everything is temporal, that everything changes, and all that is material is subject to decline and destruction.
This piece is dedicated to the healing of those who lost their possessions and their loved ones in the recent California fires.
Guillermo Galindo’s interdisciplinary work delves into concepts of sonic archetypes and instrumentation, musical form, time perception, and music notation with a wide spectrum of output that includes symphonic and chamber composition, graphic scores, three dimensional sculptural cyber-totemic sonic objects, live performance art, and in situ improvisation.
Galindo’s acoustic compositions include major chamber and solo works, symphonies, and operas. In 2006, Galindo began building his own instruments and performing compositions with them. Between 2012 and 2014, he started a collaboration with photographer Richard Misrach, gathering objects from the United States-Mexico border, where Galindo created sonic devices and musical scores made from the collection of detritus left behind by immigrants. From these new cyber-totemic sonic objects, along with Misrach’s photographs, the traveling exhibit Border Cantos was born.
Galindo’s graphic scores and sonic objects have been shown at major museums and art biennials around the world. In 2017, referencing the international immigration crises, he built sonic devices and graphic scores from the belongings of migrants from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen, creating the series Echo Exodus, which included the wreckage of two immigrant boats.
In April 2018, Galindo’s commissioned, interactive quartet, Remote Control, was performed in its world premiere by Kronos Quartet’s Fifty for the Future project at SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.
About the West Wall
In 2007, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund inaugurated The West Wall Project to recognize and support some of the talented artists who have received Creative Work Fund grants. Every 18-24 months, an artist is commissioned to create an original work for display on the northwest-facing wall of the Fund’s offices at One Lombard Street in San Francisco. At the end of the display period, the Fund returns the work to the artist who contributes it in an appropriate form to a nonprofit organization of his or her choosing. The Fund’s business is philanthropy, and this commissioning project emphasizes the idea of giving.
Installation photography courtesy of Minoosh Zomorodinia