Betsey Biggs

Public Art and Interactive Sound
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Department of Music

Sound can be used in public art to invite the public into active engagement with the physical, social and emotional spaces around them; to create a sense of connection with our world. One effective way to do this is through the use of interactive sound installation. Betsey Biggs explores the ways in which interactivity can stimulate public creativity and sense of place by focusing on David Byrne’s 2008 installation, Playing the Building. This site-specific work, commissioned by public arts agency Creative Time in the summer of 2008, transformed an historic New York City building into a musical instrument by inviting the public to play an old organ which literally sounded its pipes, beams and walls. By playing the organ, visitors resonated the building itself as well as its history, and found themselves, literally, in resonance with an important part of New York's past. Through an analysis of the work’s dual participatory modes of sounding and listening, Biggs uncovers the ways in which creativity, sociability, and a sense of place can be encouraged through such works. (2008)