Clifford Gallery Reimagines Sculpture With Alex Schweder’s The Sound and The Future

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The Clifford Gallery hosted the opening of its first exhibition of the academic year with Alex Schweder’s The Sound and The Future on Sept. 8. The exhibition was organized by DeWitt Godfrey, Peter L. and Maria T. Kellner Endowed Chair in the arts, creativity, and innovation.

Alex Schweder is an American performance architect, specializing in large scale abstract sculptures in nontraditional mediums. The piece currently on display at the Clifford Gallery is composed of ​​faux fur and silver nylon, paired with complex electronics for mobility, blown air, and techno-style audio to create a haunting atmosphere. The blown air allows for the inflatable sculpture to take ambiguous forms, yet it is carefully constructed to move through varying, precisely timed compositions. 

“This architectural robot, commissioned by Detroit-based Wasserman Projects, engorges and disgorges with air to move at butoh-like speed to continually reconfigure the spaces available to dance within,” says Schweder.

The exhibition is meant to examine significant spaces and nostalgic atmospheres with which many young adults are familiar. However, the evocative piece juxtaposes the experience that many museumgoers expect to see when stepping into a gallery space.

A majority of Schweder’s performance architecture pieces defy traditional limitations of artistic architecture, and they provide a perspective based analysis of the amorphous work: The negative space and optical composition continually change based upon the viewer’s posture and positioning in relation to the sculpture.

“I am interested in the ways that Alex’s work expands the boundaries of architecture and its relation to artistic practices,” Godfrey says. “[It is] very useful as we consider the future of architectural studies and the Middle Campus Initiative for Arts, Creativity, and Innovation. [Colgate students] will be surprised — the ambience might be familiar to them from a dance or club context but not in a gallery; the lighting, sound, and movement create an immersive experience.”