A Sound Piece Updates San José With Big Picture Data Streams

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View from inside the tower out thorough the backlit clock face.
The setting for Trevor Paglen’s ‘Beta Space’ sound installation: the San Jose Museum of Art’s 19th-century clocktower. (Richard J. Karson)

While this show is technically inside the San José Museum of Art, those seeking it out need only be within earshot of the museum’s clock tower. A newly commissioned sound piece by artist Trevor Paglen—his first—will issue regular verbal announcements in a synthesized male voice not unlike the one heard on the U.S. Naval Observatory’s time-by-phone line (that’s 202-762-1401, for future reference).

A blend of local facts (time, weather) and global information (data culled from satellite navigation systems, an endangered species list, Cal Fire updates, to name a few) will interrupt business as usual for 45 seconds at a time, reframing everyday life in relationship to events happening at a geological scale.

Beta Space: Trevor Paglen’ is audible Nov. 5, 2021–Nov. 6, 2022 at the San José Museum of Art.