Adam Shield – Artist Statement

The Tunnel of Future Memories

Every year that I can remember of my childhood, I went to Kennywood Amusement Park. I have always felt that this park possessed something that other parks didn’t, and I don’t think it’s just nostalgia that’s convincing me of that.  Everything from the old-timey rides to the new attractions, to the famous Potato Patch french fries to the tunnel at the entrance contributes to what makes this park special. This tunnel in particular has a very unique function, intentional or not, as it serves as a transitional gateway from the everyday world to the amusement park that brings everyone so much joy. When you pass through the tunnel, you can hear all the near and distant sounds of the park echoing freely around you as you pass into this world. This physical action of walking through the tunnel combined with this immolation of sound creates a psychological gateway that I am attempting to recreate and explore with this installation.

There are 4 speakers, 2 at the far end (park end) of the tunnel and 2 along the right wall. These speakers are all playing an enveloping wall of theme park sounds—everything from roller coasters and other rides to crowds of guests having a great time. In the nearest speaker along the wall, the playback speed of specific sounds is rapidly changed faster and slower which also affects the pitch. The next speaker does the same but to a lesser degree and finally those at the end play back stereo unadulterated sounds. This allows for an aural transition mimicking the psychological one, from the surrealistic suggestion of the sounds of the park to the new and exciting reality that awaits you at the other end.

An unintentional but exciting consequence that came from this experiment was the fact that the effect of sounds being pushed back in forth in speed in the manner that I was pushing them was very reminiscent of the behavior of roller coasters or other rides—regardless of whether or not the specific sounds were of such rides—just by virtue of the fact that rides tend to rise and fall and create a certain dynamism when they plunge. It became as if the sounds themselves were attending the park and riding these rides suggesting a sort of “meta” experience in which sound might take part in the activity of that which was being sounded. Once I became aware of this, I shamelessly incorporated this concept into the final design and I’m almost embarrassed that this wasn’t my initial motivation for treating the sound this way.

I strongly urge everyone to spend a day at Kennywood in order to experience what I have described and what has compelled me to create a create a project that is not only about the aural and psychological experience of the entrance tunnel, but also about the experience and the memories of the park itself.

One thought on “Adam Shield – Artist Statement

  1. Hi Adam,

    I keep hearing ads for Kennywood on Pandora…a place which I will now always associate first with your project, since that was my only experience of the park! I want to commend you especially for choosing a public site off-campus for your installation. I’m glad it worked out, particularly given its meaning for you over the years.

    Determining your ideal setup is something to consider for future potential tunnel projects. In addition to the pieces Ali mentioned, check out:

    And just generally google around, because it’s worth seeing how others have experimented with this type of space. Determining what is the most successful element of each of these other pieces will help frame your ideal experience.

    Your piece was quite effective, in the space. Interestingly, my two favorite parts were on either side of the tunnel–the masking effect I mentioned at the entrance of the tunnel. Then some of the *very* realistic rollercoaster sounds on the other side, that had me looking over my shoulder to make sure nothing was there. Ghostly.

    Loved seeing and hearing your projects throughout the semester and so enjoyed having you in class. Thanks for all of your contributions!

    All the best,

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