Andy Graydon arrived in Honolulu on Feb. 17, and has been preparing nonstop for his sound installation Fig. 1 (these things we know), opening at ARTafterDARK on Feb. 27. He had barely unpacked his bag at the Spalding House visiting artist studio when he did his first interview. The next day he was in the Hawaii Public Radio studio (pictured above) with Puakea Nogelmeier, the guru of ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i (and holder of one of the most distinctive, sonorous voices on the island).

Born and raised on Maui, Graydon is now an emerging artist on the international art scene and based in Cambridge, Mass., where he lives with his wife and son. Last August we covered his initial visit to the museum to start research for Fig. 1.

The project is the museum’s first purely sound installation—when you enter the gallery there will be nothing to look at. You will be immersed in the sound of Graydon’s and Nogelmeier’s voices as they describe objects from the museum’s collection that Graydon selected last summer.

“It went great,” Graydon says about the HPR recording session. “Puakea is amazing. Everyone at the radio station knew him and that’s where I learned he’s the voice of TheBus. I realized how iconic his voice is.” (When Graydon said early on he would need someone to translate and read text in ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, the museum suggested Nogelmeier, a professor at the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa. Thankfully he agreed to participate in the project.)

“Puakea really understood what I’m reaching for,” says Graydon, “He admitted the translation process was really complicated and was satisfied with the results.

Graydon had written detailed texts about 10 objects, from cultures all over the world, including Hawai‘i. Along with describing the works, such as a 5,000-year old Chinese jade block, the texts also are poetic and questioning. Nogelmeier recited the text of five objects in ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, and Graydon recited the text on the other five in English.

“We talked about how it wasn’t so much a matter of translating words as translating a sphere of experience from English to Hawaiian,” says Graydon. “Puakea had a total command and it was a pleasure to witness.”

Andy Graydon at Spalding House editing the recordings for 'Fig. 1 (these things we know)'

Andy Graydon at Spalding House editing the recordings for ‘Fig. 1 (these things we know)’

On Friday Graydon was sitting at a table outside the Spalding House Cafe editing the recordings on his laptop. “I’ve been listening to pieces and am making selects and alternating the voices. We recorded all his pieces at once, then recorded all my parts at once.”

When the installation is complete, visitors will hear the two voices, and will naturally assume the Hawaiian descriptions are simply translations of the English descriptions, when they are actually about completely different objects. (Do you follow? We know it’s complicated!) Graydon’s goal is to reveal how objects and spaces are given significance by ritual, performance, and social structure as much as by the tangible forms themselves. Replacing the actual objects with sound highlights this phenomenon.

Graydon’s next steps are to work with museum staff to select a paint color for the gallery, have speakers installed, then play the piece in the gallery to see if it needs to be adjusted. “I need to make sure it’s not too rushed or too long, and will listen to hear whether the filtering and frequencies match the room’s acoustics,” explains Graydon.

As part of the installation, Graydon is simultaneously working with five artists who are participating in Garden Paths, a public performance related to Fig. 1, which takes place on Saturday, Feb. 28. Each performer will be stationed in a museum courtyard, reciting a detailed description of one of the objects included in Fig. 1. Then the performers will make their way to Central Courtyard where they will form a sort of chorus, a mobile-like work of sound. This past Saturday Graydon was at the museum rehearsing Garden Paths with Abie Goode, Lurana O’Malley, Carol Root (one of our tireless docents!), Kyle Scholl and Lyz Soto. We can’t wait until this Saturday to see the performance.

Fig. 1 (these things we know) opens Feb. 27 during ARTafterDARK: Sweet.