Trimpin’s Hot Pink Pinball Piano

This kinetic sound machine used to be a piano. See/hear it at Winston Wächter Fine Art through this Saturday.
This kinetic sound machine used to be a piano. See/hear it at Winston Wächter Fine Art through this Saturday.

Only two more days to see Klavier–Stücke (meaning, “piano pieces”), Trimpin’s latest art installation to cleverly blend high-tech gadgetry with deconstructed pianos. The ingenious Seattle-based “sound sculptor” (read more about Trimpin in the profile I wrote for our January issue) has created several pieces for the show.

The first grabs your attention as soon as you walk in the door: a tall wall covered in screen-printed drawings of notes on musical scales—but distorted scales that look as if they’ve been bent in half and given a good shake. Also attached to the wall is a large metal mechanical X-Y axis that contains a scanner. Using a joystick, the viewer moves the scanner across the screen prints, which triggers a certain unique series of sounds that is magically produced, player-piano style, on one of two exploded pianos in the next room. These pianos have no keys, however; the sound happens by way of various gadgets Trimpin has attached to the strings, Frankenstein style (or, for avant-garde music fans, John Cage style). The little songs I “created” with my joystick work varied from industrial to mournful. I tried to recreate the one I liked best, but of course I couldn’t recall how exactly I had moved the joystick. Such is the ephemeral and endearing nature of Trimpin’s work.

Another part of the gallery features a different deconstructed piano. I neglected to write down the title, so I’m calling it the hot pink pinball piano (pictured). It’s less complicated than the other: a motion sensor triggers a seesaw of sorts placed under the former piano, which has been augmented with pinball machine balls that roll back and forth along the strings. They produce a kind of horror-movie rush of sound that stands in amusing contrast to the Barbie color of the contraption. It’s completely mesmerizing and very hard to walk away from. Also on view is a clever peep-show: a framed mirror that when you drop a quarter in a machine raises to briefly reveal a painting by Thomas Kincade (the mass-produced “Painter of Light”). When I interviewed Trimpin for the profile, he hinted to me about this piece—joking that the only way we’ll be able to see art in the future is by putting money into a slot for the shortest glimpse of something that is likely a commercialized bastardization of art anyway.

Though it was supposed to close today, the installation will remain open today through Saturday (10am-5pm each day). Head to Winston Wachter while you still can to experience Trimpin’s funny genius in person.


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