In 2001, Tim Hawkinson created Uberorgan for the gallery at MassMOCA.
Several bus-size biomorphic balloons, each with its horn tuned to a different note in the octave, make up a walk-in self-playing organ. A 200 foot-long scroll of dots and dashes encodes a musical score of old hymns, pop classics, and improvisational ditties. This score is deciphered by the organ’s brain - a bank of light sensitive switches - and then reinterpreted by a series of switches and relays that translate the original patterns into non-repeating variations of the score.
Part sculpture, part giant musical instrument, Hawkinson’s installation was a loose interpretation of the human body’s organ systems. Uberorgan conducted itself for five minutes every hour, on the hour. The exhibition traveled from MassMOCA to the Getty Center in Los Angeles, where it graced the museum’s entrance hall during the exhibit of Hawkinson’s work called Zoopsia, a name that means “visual hallucinations of animals.”
You can hear a minute long sample of the Uberorgan on the Getty Center website. To me it sounds like a duet between a three-year-old jamming out on a bass saxophone and an elephant in a good mood.
Update: Tim Hawkinson and the Uberorgan are featured the Art:21 episode,”Time.” Seeing and hearing the piece, even on the small screen, is impressive, and Hawkinson explains how he came about creating such a voluminous, volume-driven work of art. (thx, cliff)