The Resonant Lung: A Recycled Pipe Organ Inside a Shipping Container
Austin, Texas based public artist Colin McIntyre has developed a new installation in the Dimension Gallery involving a wooden pipe organ in a shipping container called the Resonant Lung.
McIntyre is an Austin based artist who specialises in developing large sculptures. A video of him discussing his work can be seen above.
One of his most prominent works is the entranceway to a science park in the city composed of two steel trees that are intertwined over the footpath. Quiet and softly spoken, McIntyre seems to let his work speak for him.
Dimension Gallery was set up by McIntyre in partnership with his wife, Moya Khabele. It is an unusual private gallery in that it almost exclusively exhibits sculpture of all sizes from something that can fit in someone’s living room or garden, to something like the Resonant Lung that has to be in a space only for itself.
According to the Dimension Gallery website, Khabele and McIntyre’s gallery’s “goal is to not only exhibit art, but to empower the artists to fund the creation of their work, considering the more intensive studio practices often involved in generating sculpture.”
Together, the couple support local artists in getting public arts funding to support their work. This is something that McIntyre has done very well from in setting up a number of public exhibition spaces around Austin.
Shipping containers and pipe organs
Stepping into an empty shipping container, one of the first things you will notice is that all sounds echo. Gateway Containers have shown how top artists have even used this effect for their albums, one of whom claims that a shipping container is better than the Abbey Road echo chamber in the UK.
Pipe organs are some of the largest musical instruments around. Consisting of a number of large pipes that can be several metres in length, they are operated by air pumps and played with a keyboard and foot pedals. While many are used in older churches around the world, there are some extremely technically challenging orchestral pieces designed for the pipe organ that listening to them, one would have difficulty believing that just one person is playing it.
The Resonant Lung
It is clear that McIntyre appreciated the properties we have touched on above as he went to develop the Resonant Lung, essentially a wooden pipe organ rescued from a church in Detroit, Michigan that sits in a 40ft shipping container.
McIntyre explained to the Austin Chronicle, “The organ came out of a church in Detroit. It went into disuse in the Eighties and much of the instrument was lost over the years before it came to me. It was originally built in the mid-1930s by a company that’s one of the few remaining American manufacturers of pipe organs: Wicks Organ Company. I’ve rebuilt wind chests for it and implemented the electronic controls for modern interface – been working with a well-known acoustician and the premiere provider of electronic pipe organ controls in the country – but everything else is original equipment. And I’ll be adding more ranks as I find them.”
A series of musicians have been lined up to create soundscapes for small audiences to listen to from within the shipping container. This is the true art of the installation – for people to appreciate the qualities of the shipping container and the pipe organ together with soundscapes made to take full advantage of the unique acoustics. One of the first musicians to play the Resonant Lung is to be Rio de Janeiro based Ricardo Donoso who has made soundscapes for US television in the past.
Shipping containers can be used in a variety of ways but this is almost as eccentric, yet interesting, as things can be in this field. Sadly the installation is not leaving Austin so people may have to travel thousands of miles to appreciate it but this certainly seems to be worth the journey.
Got an interesting project lined up involving a shipping container?
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