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Every Island Fled Away and the Mountains Could Not Be Found

The Score: Rust and Renewal by Christopher DeLaurenti

The Stranger, August 2007

In the 20th century, composers embraced decay. Not the cultural decay alleged by various polemics declaring the "end of music" that hounded Beethoven, Berlioz, and Wagner in the 19th century, but sonic decay: The dissolution, deterioration, and disintegration of sound itself became a means of discovery and, ironically, creation.

Recording technology enables the exploration and mechanization of decay by filtering and repeated layering. Piled on top of each other, sounds abrade and partially erase each other into something new. Jim Haynes encapsulates his own approach to decay succinctly: "I rust things."

In his installation Every Island Fled Away and the Mountains Could Not Be Found, the Bay Area–based artist juxtaposes five wall-mounted sets of four-by-four panels against a buffet of wine glasses filled with rusty water. The panels feast on rust. One set suggests a trail of smeared, brandy-colored chromosomes smudged with carbonized fingerprints; my favorite panels hint at a gold-painted Klimt gone wrong, a forgery betrayed by polluting bits of ocher and amber.

Arrayed on four pedestals, the wine glasses sit atop speaker cones, smothering crackles into the quiet fizzing chatter of a Geiger counter, another sign of (radioactive) decay. Haynes calibrated the volume masterfully. The vibrations gently disturb the innards of each glass. Translucent flakes, particles of rust, and plain old dirt move slowly, slightly. Yet to hear the sound fully, you must peer into the glasses themselves. Otherwise the sound only mumbles.

While rust obviously denotes decay, more detrimental forces work secretly. As the installation ages, the speaker cones, weary of such unusual weight, will wear out, slowly changing the sound.