Curtis Tamm

  • Atist In Residence2017
  • Born in1987 in USA
  • NationalityUSA
  • PeriodAugust 25 – December 12, 2017 (110 days)
  • Websitehttp://curtistamm.net/
For the residence in ARCUS

As a synthesization of my engagement with earthquakes in Japan, I developed Center for Cellular Alignment; built from the fundamental perspective that accidents are the shape beyond systems, CFCA offered those interested in re-visioning their relationship to seismic phenomena, with intimate and disorienting 'experiential lectures'.
The project in its rhizomatic parts approaches sound as an inherently fractal phenomena, whereby one can physically access large-scale seismic events through even the smallest of noises and sound waves.
As a way to speculate upon how cities siren infrastructure may be utilized for purposes of deep-listening as well as signal warning, I developed a library of siren candidates specific to sounds in Japan; ranging from ultrasonics of cicadas and other-worldly “pachinko” melodies, to the seductive chanting of “itakos” (Japanese Shamans) in rural Aomori, to the screaming and stomping of the local kendo club in Moriya, Ibaraki. After a three months of making and gathering, a few candidates began to really stand out. I worked with a dozen Buddhist temples throughout Kyoto, Tokyo and Ibaraki prefecture to record and play with the frequencies of “bonsho” (multi-ton, ancient temple bells). By spatializing the listener's body within the 'womb' of these “bonsho” recordings (utilizing a multi-channel speaker array to simulate their precise center), along with the accidental interference from other candidates in the sound-library, Center for Cellular Alignment functioned as a social space where listening deeply may be used as a tool for understanding seismicity.

Born 1987 in California, USA, Tamm received his MFA in 2014 from the University of California Los Angeles, Design Media Arts. He works primarily in sound, film and video. His work also takes the form of live performance and lecture performance. In his unique cross disciplinary practice, Tamm engages the subtlety of natural phenomena, geophysics and geology, and creates visual/sound works based upon intimate engagements with the non-human world.

[Selected Exhibitions and Activities]
2017 Recipient of LACMA's Art + Techonology Lab Award
2016 “The Viscous Shape”, with Skaftfell Center for Visual Art & GPL Walker Geology Center, East Iceland. Collaboration with Hermione Spriggs
2016 “Balancing the Stone”, Titanik Gallery, Turku, Finland
2016 “Flatlander”, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
2015 “Tympanic Tether”, The Santozeum, Santorini, Greece

Reasons for Selection
I was impressed by the unexpected contrast between the content of his unique research, which included minerals, tornadoes, volcanoes, geothermal energy and animism, and the final forms of his pieces. He has an ability to tastefully convert intellectual and theoretical topics into works that speak to the viewers’ senses. Tamm has demonstrated that he is an adept collaborator, through his experience as a research assistant to scientists, and his proposal of a collaborative project with scientific research institutions. I expect him to actively seek collaborators and discover new themes for his research during the residency at ARCUS Project.


Comment for Open Studios
In his unique cross-disciplinary, research-based practice, Curtis Tamm engages with natural phenomena, geophysics, geology and animals, creating visual and sound works.

Tamm conducted the research project Tympanic Tether on the Greek island of Santorini, exploring his interest in volcanic activities, human or animal precognition of natural disasters, and the use of sirens as warnings. Working with firefighters, police officers, bird breeders, ambulance drivers, and others, Tamm built up a collection of various field recordings into a sound library. He then made an improvised performance where he played these sounds as a new kind of siren idiosyncratic to the island.

For Tamm, sounds, a tsunami, and an earthquake are all things that result from waves and, as such, inherently possess correlation. During his residency, he visited the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo and the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, and conducted research on the relationship between sound and Buddhism, Shinto, and folk beliefs. He also came into contact with traditional Japanese instruments such as the koto and continued to increase his collection of sounds in his audio library, recording the sounds of bells at temples in Kyoto and Ibaraki Prefecture as well as the sounds made during the casting of a temple bell at a foundry in the town of Makabe in Ibaraki. He also conducted a workshop involving an amateur chorus group in Moriya.

At Open Studios, visitors are invited to lie down and listen to the sounds. This “listening session” is an attempt to use sounds in order to evoke some hereditary ability within our bodies, similarly to how catfish can supposedly sense tremors before earthquakes happen, and that has perhaps lain dormant since ancient times. In Tamm’s way of thinking, we can find the connectivist idea of trying to locate links between things that initially seem unrelated.

Kenichi Kondo

Selected WorksShow Image
ActivitiesShow Image
Open StudiosShow Image

Resident Artists 2017

Julieta Aguinaco & Sarah Demoen  <Mexico & Belgium>

Daniel Nicolae Djamo  <Romania>

Curtis Tamm  <USA>