Part 1: The Banality Series

Listen to Joseph Keehn describe his process for The Banality Series – on view at University of Missouri Kansas City at Miller Nichols Library through August 30, 2015.  

Transcription of recording, Joseph Keehn speaks:

mustache“Today is June 12, 2015 and it is 2:10 pm.  I am currently on the second floor of Miller Nichols Library on the campus of UMKC. Today I am installing the project A Mystic Bond of Brotherhood Makes All Men One. There are three parts to the exhibition – two sound series and a collection of responses to the prompt “I knew it mattered when…” For now, I’ll be talking about the sounds works in “The Banality Series.”

“The Banality Series” is a collection of recordings in public spaces, mainly bars and a bowling alley, where I am surrounded by my gay community. From the start of this project, I knew I wanted to collect the stories and conversations of my community, thinking that they would be outlandish and gregarious in nature. Basically, the stereotypes of gay culture. After collecting several weeks worth of recordings, I knew it was time to start listening to them. Bracing myself for a lot of “gurls, please” and the sound of gay I was pleasantly surprised to find quite the opposite. Our conversations were freakishly ordinary. My own prejudices and labeling of my community surfaced and I needed to reconcile it before I (now knowingly) perpetuated it any further.circuitboard

Now that I had these recordings, I had to figure out how to exhibit them. Because the conversations were of the everyday, it reminded me of the See n’ Say toys from my childhood. You know those toys that you pull the string and it tells you to say “apple” or “the rooster makes this sound.” An educational toy that required physical engagement to activate. Similarly, I created the board books with their sound components, allowing Library patrons to interact with the work. Before doing any of that, though, I had to figure out how to create and program the circuit boards.
I am no pro at technology. It has taken me forever just to learn how to post on this blog. Long story short, I had zilch experience with building circuit boards, let alone programming them. After speaking with some Hallmark employees, I landed on purchasing the components used in greeting cards (speaker, light sensor, and speaker) and modifying them by including 4 touch buttons used in children storyboards and a motion-activated sensor (PIR). Sounds like I know more than I actually do. Takeaway, hot glue works so much better than soldering. A big thanks to my mentor Aaron for showing me the ropes of circuit board construction and then developing a program for them that I can actually read.program

In hindsight, I would have outsourced more of the sound editing and circuit board building and programming for a more refined and consistent quality, but there is something gratifying about being able to say I did this. I learned a new process. Lots of help from others, but I learned it. Cannot argue with that. I do see this being a new direction for my work, and I am looking forward to what is next… Once I let this sit for awhile that is.

Signing off…” JGK2

Joseph Keehn II’s project A Mystic Bond of Brotherhood Makes All Men One will be on view through August 30 at Miller Nichols Library on the campus of UMKC. Mark your calendars for a closing reception on August 27 at 5:30 pm in Room 202A.

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