When walking through a museum, it’s easy to dismiss the mundane and irrelevant elements and focus on a curated journey. However, the conventional concept of “museum-going” is challenged at University of Michigan Museum of Art’s latest and one-day-only show, “Collections: UMMA.”

Collections: UMMA
Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

The site-specific performance includes an impromptu score coupled with a pre-recorded film of UMMA’s architecture. The video, created by School of Art & Design MFA candidate John Kannenberg, provides a structure for the live improvisational sounds by various musicians, including School of Music, Theatre & Dance professor Stephen Rush.

While many Art & Design students travel to UMMA to examine the artwork behind the cases, Kannenberg spent his time listening in the galleries. The sounds encouraged him to then seek the visual oddities around the museum.

“I’ve done all of this visual research around the museum — collecting all of these images in the museum, which is everything but the art,” he explained. This unconventional process led him to create a piece about UMMA itself.

As the project began to unfold, both the environment and the video demonstrate a sense of new meets old; the video score is displayed in both the original building (Apse Gallery) and the recently added Maxine and Stuart Frankel Family Wing (Vertical Gallery). In fact, each frame in Kannenberg’s video is sliced and shows one image from each the Apse and Vertical galleries. He primarily focused on the tiniest of details that typically remain unnoticed, like chairs for museum-goers and case work for exhibit pieces. The site and film present a clear dichotomy between the new and old aspects of the museum, giving this unconventional piece a sense of familiarity.

“I am setting up a situation where a group of sound artists can react to the look and sound of the space at the same time,” Kannenberg said. “So I am thinking of this as an improvisational dialogue, with the sound and the visual aspects of the space, which is filtered or mediated through this situation that I’ve set up — the video.”

Kannenberg’s interest in the relationship between sound and images brought him into the world of “picture scores,” the concept that explores how an image can affect sound, and vice versa, when the two are juxtaposed. In the past, his focus has been on single images, but he has also been working to develop a video that can be used as moving “graphic score.”

“(A) graphic score is like taking a picture and turning it into sound,” he explained, but with multiple images. There is no canvas needed.

In addition to the video, the exhibit includes musicians spread throughout each space, forcing spectators to actually interact with their surroundings.

“I am directing the gaze of these musicians and sound artists who are going to be forming (music),” he stated. “From there they are going to be both looking and listening to the space and reacting to it in an autonomic way.”

Though the sound created is unknown until the show, Kannenberg expects quieter music that will not detract from the video or space. Rush, Kannenberg’s former professor, said he plans to use an eclectic variety of instruments like the wind instrument ocarina — not the iPhone application — and a sopranino trombone, also known as a slide whistle.

“(I don’t have) intentionality about the performance, but (I) hope that it is cohesive and provides a good environment,” Rush said.

Lisa Borgsdorf, the manager of UMMA, feels that having Kannenberg’s piece at the museum is an obvious and appropriate marriage. This symbiotic relationship provides museum-goers at UMMA a meta-viewpoint and a new perspective on the familiar spaces.

“It will be an opportunity for audiences to reflect on the space in a different way because they will be looking at images of the space that they are in,” Borgsdof said. “John is looking at it with a different eye, especially by focusing at the very small details. And I think that will heighten people’s awareness of how they are interacting with the space — which is an interesting opportunity for us.”

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