Helen Mirra

Helen Mirra’s new site-specific stereo sound work, composed for a five-thousand-square-foot unlighted freezer room, takes full advantage of the auditory possibilities of the insulated space, and its raw state of inaccessibility. Produced in her Berlin studio after a visit to the site, Green break is structurally based upon an elegiac couplet, with the two parts detached and rearranged. Alongside instrumentation that includes whistling, bass harmonica, and mouth harp, we hear the unprocessed ambient sounds of Mirra’s environment, which provide a texture during the silences between the two parts.

A number of Mirra’s works over the past decade suggest her interest in linearity and landscape, perhaps most notably her films that map a number of earth’s latitudes. Condensed to a smaller scale, Mirra’s filmic bands translate topography into color, turning green where the depicted latitude crosses land, blue as it moves over water, white over ice. The resulting 16mm material appears to have peeled the earth.

Strung between two speakers at opposite ends of the room, the sound of Green break draws a fuzzy auditory line through the space, blundered by reverberance. Unable to enter the depth of the dark room, we depend upon Mirra’s echoes to feel out the contours of the freezer’s volume. As her sound makes the void known to us, it contradicts the emptiness, suggesting the impossible coincidence of inhabitation and sublimity in the modern city, and paralleling the High Line’s central paradox.

Music score for sound installation Green break, 2005 and Rendering for proposed work (not realized)