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One good turntable deserves another

February 01, 2007|Shana Ting Lipton

Sean Duffy's experiential art exhibition "The Grove" is an open invitation to anyone who ever wanted to hijack a DJ's turntables. In the interactive sound installation, currently up at Cal State L.A.'s Luckman Fine Arts Complex, the spectator contributes to the art as he or she plays DJ with 20 turntables and dozens of vinyl albums.

The large exhibit space is filled with record players and crates of albums -- as varied as Keith Jarrett and Franz Schubert. Each turntable setup is connected by tentacle-like wires to more than 400 tiny, colorful hand-painted speakers suspended in midair.

As the gallery space fills up with would-be DJs, the aural maze evolves into a frantic cacophony of speeches by President John F. Kennedy, folk tunes by Gordon Lightfoot, Cuban drum tracks and so on. "The more people that are in the room participating, the more frenetic, even verging on psychotic, the piece gets," says Julie Joyce, Luckman's gallery director. "It's a canopy of sound."

A record collector and former DJ at the UC Santa Barbara college radio station, Duffy enjoys the pops and hisses and endures the participants' occasional scratching of the discs, which come from his personal collection. "The flaws are really important to me," he says.

So is the work's nostalgic undercurrent, which reflects the "accidental bleed" of "talk radio, rock and Mexican radio" emanating from cars with their windows rolled down, as well as the potpourri of sounds wafting through public parks. The latter will be re-created Wednesday when Duffy hosts a bring-a-sack-lunch "picnic tour" of "The Grove."

-- Shana Ting Lipton

Sean Duffy, "The Grove," Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Picnic at noon Wednesday. Ends March 3. Free. (323) 343-6604.

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