The work of American artist Mark Bain centres on the interaction of acoustics, architecture, and physical/mental reactions to infrasonics – sounds below the human hearing threshold. Bain is involved in ongoing research investigating the effects of inherent and induced sonic events on structures and the people that inhabit them.
The artist uses both the inaudible sounds normally present in buildings and other large constructions, amplifying them with seismographic and other specially designed equipment, and the sound potential of structures, using machinery to vibrate the materials and/or surroundings – essentially shaking buildings or the ground – for sonic effect.
Amplifying the seismographic oscillations of the architecture and ground, either acoustically or using vibrators, allows Bain to plumb structures with waveform data and sound, mapping out the signatures of each and defining a presence within that which is normally thought of as static. Bain’s work finds parallels in Nicola Tesla’s early experiments with vibrational devices. Bain comes from an architectural family and his work – which attacks, or topically addresses, architecture and other spaces we inhabit – places him in the position of anti-architect. He is also particularly interested in "connective tissue" between structures and the audience at a show or installation, whose bodies contribute to the sum of vibrations.
Bain is from Seattle, USA, and studied at MIT before completing a two-year residency at the Rijksacademie in the Netherlands. He has vibrated the V2 building in Amsterdam, the Het Paard – a club in Amsterdam – and has received commissions to shake bridges, laboratories, and freight containers internationally. Bain is the founder of Simulux, an audio/visual research facility based in Seattle, and is also a member of a band with his brother, John Bain, called the Mutant Data Orchestra.
Mark Bain has released three audio recordings. The earliest was Vibronics, a mini CD on experimental label Staalplaat in 2000 that included a recording of the Skowhegan Bridge (Maine, USA). The second was a CD supplement to the catalogue of the show Mommy And I Are One, in the catalogue of the deAppel Foundation, Amsterdam, in 2001, and the third was a controversial recording of the ground vibrations at the time of the 9/11 World Trade Centre's collapse. The 74-minute piece was made with data collected from Columbia University, which collects seismological information from the area. The piece was slated for release as StartEndTime on Staalplaat in 2004, but the CD no longer appears in the label catalogue. It was, however, broadcast in full on London's art radio station Resonance 104.4 FM, and is currently released through dutch label Drop of Blood Records.
Bain has had solo shows at Galerie Romain Lariviere, Paris, France, and the Rooseum in Malmo, Sweden. Group exhibitions include “In the Meantime” at the De Appel Foundation Amsterdam, and others at the Blue Moon Project-Mobile in Groningen, the Smart Project Place, Amsterdam, and the Fundament Foundation, Tilburg.