Scott Sherk, Cellar, 2019

Scott Sherk, Cellar, 2019, lacquered MDF, electronics, audio file, 7.75 x 16 x 16 in., with pedestal, 32 x 16 x 16 in.

Gaston Bachelard believed rooms make sound, dream, and promote dreams. He said, in The Poetics of Space, “When we dream there [in the cellar], we are in harmony with the irrationality of the depths.” Scott Sherk wanted to dream in his cellar but he did not like going down there. He set up a microphone, his surrogate dreamer, to try to listen to the cellar dream, or at least listen, to what occurs without him. He recorded Cellar during a six-hour dinner party (he told his guests), then got the idea to play the recording in a cabinet that imitates the cellar’s proportions.

You do not hear anything until you hold your head over it, as you might lean over the edge of a well and peer down into the dark. Cellar masquerades as furniture, but it is a portal to issues of surveillance, cultural policing, political frustration. That’s what you get if you listen “up.” If you listen “down,” to the sounds of Cellar, you enjoy a Minimalist masterpiece played by a pump motor with no time for tired complaints of solitude, anonymity, and despair. The little pump’s power comes from droning at the perfect volume, a quiet bullseye to the brain.

Text by Matthew Crain

Part of Passing Bittersweet, a 2020 exhibition at the Williams Center Gallery. Find more of Scott Sherk’s work at The Third Barn website.