Doug Wheeler, PSAD Synthetic Desert III, 1971 - Entertainment
Doug Wheeler, PSAD Synthetic Desert III, 1971
PSAD Synthetic Desert III belongs to a yet-to-be-realized group of installations conceived by Doug Wheeler during the late 1960s and ‘70s. In each work, the architectural modification of an existing room allows the artist to achieve subtle manipulations of light, space, and sound. These changes create a “semi-anechoic chamber” designed to suppress all but the lowest levels of ambient sound. Secondarily, the room’s lighting and configuration induce an optical impression of “infinite” space. The concept of Synthetic Desert is partly drawn from psychological and neurophysiological experiments in sensory deprivation that date back to midcentury. Yet Wheeler compares the impact of the work to his own experience of a specific location in the Arizona Desert, where near-silent conditions profoundly influence the visual sensation of distance. The Guggenheim installation, produced in collaboration with the artist, will be the first time Synthetic Desert—or any acoustic work by the artist—has ever been realized.The installation entered the museum’s collection in 1992, along with many other Minimal, Post-Minimal, and Conceptual artworks from the 1960s and 1970s that were acquired from the collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo. Due to the nature of the work, which depends on reducing distractions of any kind, visitation will be limited to small groups. This measure serves to protect the quality of visitor experience, which will achieve fullest potential if traffic is regulated and most extraneous sound is eliminated. This presentation of PSAD Synthetic Desert III is organized by Jeffrey Weiss, Senior Curator, and Francesca Esmay, Conservator, Panza Collection, with Melanie Taylor, Director, Exhibition Design.