Yann Novak “Doppler.Shift” at Commonwealth and Council

— Review
I walk as though entranced, when I walk in a familiar place.
Chapter One

In my mind, I hear laughter down the hall; I remember the last opening I attended, and the one before that and the one before that; I think of the afternoons when I’ve climbed the stairs and traversed this hall alone, and with David; I think of times I’ve spent here with Young, looking at art and sharing an experience with whoever was visiting. Here is where I prepare myself for what lies ahead; here is a space of cleansing and of conscious breaths and of quiet, zen-like pleasure. Here is a space of leaving. This darkened space, this truly liminal span of corridor is rich with history; it encompasses anticipation and intellectual pleasure and drunken promises and love. My body makes echoes here; as it moves it animates the space. The hallway returns this favor by animating my memory. A faint scent of cigarettes and dust and plaster, and the feel of air on my skin as it passes, completes the magic.

Yann Novak has done us the service of honoring Commonwealth and Council’s nearly mythological hallway with two works of art.

A quiet drone composition plays, and it alters as I move, tones growing more and less resonant. I hear, or I imagine I hear additional “instruments” entering the aural space of the pulse (bell-like, organ-like), changing it, and then dissipating into the new, jointly created pulse. Walking the length of the corridor again, I find two distinct compositions; the second sounds rounder, and hollow and like it is made from human voices in a polyphonous chant.

Both pieces make me think of time; the slow evolution of drone music alludes to eternity in a very brief time, and also can collapse a long time spent listening to a few perceived seconds.

Novak’s immersive and experiential installation is perfect.
From Novak’s website:

“Yann Novak customizes the tempo of the corridor leading towards and away from the threshold of Commonwealth & Council. Red.Shift and Blue.Shift, the two site-specific sound and light works that comprise Doppler.Shift, incorporate filtered florescent lights and synthesized sound intermixed with field recording from the exhibition space. The paired compositions create harmonic environmental “tint” that shifts the mood and atmosphere for the passers-by.”

Chapter Two

I thought of a book when I entered Novak’s installation, a book I read when I was an adolescent, titled Red Shift to Blue. This book told a story of a group of scientists who were engaged in some sort of secret revolutionary action. I’m mixing several books up here, but what I recall is a clash of scientists with a holistic, natural bent vs. a technocratic, corporatized society. As a consequence of their actions, and blowback from the (faceless, all-powerful, and always punishing) government, the scientists had to escape; a world that misused science for exploitation had no place scientists with hearts.

Due to a quirk of the Doppler effect and the interference of planetary bodies transiting distant stars (along with a whole lot of hopeful magic), a worm-hole in time opened in a stone doorway in the woods, and the scientists escaped to a prehistoric, pristine past; where they would be free to pursue their scientific practices in a way that accounted for the whole earth and all its many inhabitants. That the doorway was discovered and its magical powers were tested by the asocial and misunderstood Asperger’s afflicted teenage son of one among the team of scientists made me love the book and read it again and again.

Science has poetry within it, and noticing this poetry – it is an active thing, this paying of attention – is the basis for great spirituality.
I’m getting farther away…