The orchestrated whimsy of Larnie and Bodil Fox's kinetic sound sculptures

Few pieces of art have managed to capture my recent attention and imagination quite like Larnie and Bodil Fox's kinetic sound sculptures. Their latest exhibition, showing at NY2CA Gallery in Benicia, CA, is a carnivalesque contraption of ingenuity and interactive delight. But the show, called Probability 2, offers more than just a visual and sonic feast. It forms a multisensory symphony of art, technology, and whimsical narrative that is truly inspiring and joy-producing.

Photo by Laura Eytan. Used with permission.

At first glance, the Foxes' creations are curious, fiddly little (and big) sculptures, each with their own peculiar charm and often lovely, intricate design. Looking at one of the pieces, it hard not to imagine the two artists in their studio-workshop, tinkering around, testing out and discussing different found objects and materials for sounds and arrangement ideas.

These are sculptures that demand engagement, inviting the audience to poke, prod, whack on, and play, transforming passive gallery viewers into active participants. When there are a number of people in the space, the gallery itself becomes a loud, bangy-clangy instrument. As you interact with the pieces, mic'd and amplified through piezos, they come alive with movement and sound, each manipulation eliciting a unique kinetic and auditory response that adds layers to the overall experience. Some of the sounds are quite surprising, many quite beautiful.

Photo by Laura Eytan. Used with permission.

What sets these sculptures apart is their masterful blend of mechanics and artistry. The sounds produced are carefully crafted to complement the visual spectacle, creating an effective interplay of sight and sound, both enchanting and immersive. The found objects used in many of these pieces also add a fun layer to the narrative, like the violin neck that becomes an input device as you use it to contact copper plates and complete sound and actuation circuits.

Being surrounding by all of these sound objects, I wanted to hear what the room might sound like if dedicated noise artists got to jam on them. It turns out that Larnie and Bodil do perform on the art with others (Chris Miller, Lena Strayhorn, and Sudhu Tewari), under the name Contraption Quintet (or Quartet, depending on the number of players). One night, they treated NY2CA Gallery guests to a sound performance. As night fell, they wore headlamps and jammed on the gallery in the dark.

Photo by Larnie Fox, Used with permission.

In an age dominated by all things digital and virtual, the tactile nature of these sculptures serves as a reminder of the joyous physicality of analog art and the child-like wonder of direct engagement.

You can follow Larnie and Bodil on their respective websites.

Previously in kinetic sound sculptures.