Mary Stuart Hall (C’04) returns to campus for exhibit Sympathetic Dissonance

By Robert Mohr
Staff Writer

Mary Stuart Hall (C’04) spoke about her new exhibition, Sympathetic Dissonance, on Friday, November 15 at the Carlos Gallery. The sculptural exhibit centers around sympathetic resonance, a sonic phenomenon where a ringing tuning fork can cause a nearby, silent tuning fork to also begin ringing. 

Hall, who currently teaches art at The Galloway School in Atlanta, Georgia, explores her fascination with place and space in the exhibit. She says, “The installation relies on the complex experience of a place and space to create a contrast between the idea of a place, an imaginary landscape, and the sensational experience of the material world. The distance sound travels can define a space in ways that walls or lines on a map cannot.”

The exhibit consists of two tuning forks connected to an FM radio which broadcasts the signal of the two physical tuning forks along with recordings of five more. Therefore, Sympathetic Dissonance interacts outside the traditional gallery space. Expaining the role of the radio, Hall says, “the FM radio has a specific geographic reach of approximately 40 miles or 60 km. The frequency of the radio is an analogue material that connects those outside the gallery to the installation.”

During a trip to Germany last summer, Hall experienced the way sound travels at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremburg. Visiting with a group of students from the Fine Arts Academy of Nuremburg, Hall was profoundly affected by the experience: “As we spent time listening to the way sound bounced around the walls, it was impossible to ignore the way those vibrations were interacting with the history of the place. The capacity of a building to shape the timbre and amplification of a sound, when the shape of that space was created for a specific, horrific reason, changed the way I thought about sound and space.”

This interest in space and place is a thread that runs throughout Hall’s previous work. A 2016 exhibit at Atlanta’s MINT gallery, The Topography of Text explores her great, great, great grandfather’s mid 19th-century letter to a relative in New England about moving to America. Excerpts from the letter were carved into concrete blocks and placed around the gallery, along with photographic transfers and 3D printed log cabins. According to Hall’s website: “The viewer must fill in the gaps from the text and reconstruct its meaning based on their experience with the installation.”

The exhibit will be in the Carlos Gallery, located in the Nabit Art Building, until December 12. The gallery is open Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m., and Saturday, 1–5 p.m.