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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Media only:

Gabriel Einsohn (202) 633-2822 or einsohng@si.edu

Public only:

(202) 633-1000 or www.hirshhorn.si.edu

Media Preview:
Select hours on Aug. 2. RSVP to Gabriel Einsohn to reserve a time slot. 

Hirshhorn Commissions Janet Cardiff to Create Audio Walk for National Mall 

As part of the Hirshhorn’s ongoing “Directions” series, the museum has commissioned a new artwork by Janet Cardiff (b. 1957), a Canadian-born artist known for her innovative use of audio technology. Cardiff has developed a 33-minute multisensory audio walk, entitled “Words drawn in water,” in which the artist’s layered sound effects merge to evoke a blend of memory and history. “Directions-Janet Cardiff” debuts Aug. 3 and will continue through Oct. 30. The audio walk offers visitors the means to consider an array of ideas and experiences while contemplating the legacy of the National Mall. This artwork also will become a dynamic addition to the Hirshhorn’s collection. 

To begin the walk, visitors will start out individually from the Hirshhorn’s lobby with an Apple iPod shuffle that delivers audio directions instructing them where to walk. Led by an anonymous narrator-which is interspersed among enhanced recordings of ambient sounds, a cappella music, excerpts from historic speeches and snippets of interviews with individuals who recount their Washington, D.C., experiences-participants will pass through the Hirshhorn plaza and Sculpture Garden, along the National Mall and through other Smithsonian museums. Cardiff’s voice-over also includes instructions and references to specific artworks, buildings and vistas as visitors approach them on the predetermined route. The work is designed to be an individual experience. The audio walk is free and available Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Last dispatch is at 2:30 p.m. Photo identification or a credit card is required in exchange for the temporary loan of the equipment. Visitors should allow an hour to complete the audio walk. 

Cardiff’s first audio walk artwork was developed in 1991 during a residency at the Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta. She inadvertently turned on a tape recorder and felt estranged from the persona projected by her own voice. Since then, she has used narration as a means to create an intimate connection to her audience. According to organizing curator Kelly Gordon, “In many of Cardiff’s works, a narrator’s soothing whisper is off set by sound effects so vivid, so subtle, so three-dimensional that they challenge participants to distinguish what is and is not ‘real.’ ” 

The artist has created audio walks in cities including Florence, Italy; London; San Francisco and New York. Cardiff holds a bachelor’s degree from Queens University, Ontario, Canada, and a master’s degree from the University of Alberta, Edmonton Alberta, Canada. She has had numerous solo exhibitions and a survey exhibition at P.S.1. MOMA in 2001.

Visitors with disabilities are welcome to experience a DVD of the audio walk on a laptop available at the Janet Cardiff kiosk in the museum’s lobby. 

The Hirshhorn’s “Directions” series has brought the work of leading and emerging international artists to Washington since 1987. “Directions-Janet Cardiff” is made possible in part by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; Trellis Fund; contributions to the Hirshhorn’s Curators’ Circle; and the assistance of the Canadian Embassy. iPod shuffles are provided by Apple. 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the nation’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, offers exhibitions and free public programs that explore the art of our time. The museum, located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25) and admission is free. 

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Note to Media (Not for Publication): On Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m., the Hirshhorn will host “Meet the Artist: Janet Cardiff.” The artist will speak about her work at the Hirshhorn. Media are invited to cover this event, which is open to invited guests and students with valid school identification only. To obtain a press pass to cover this talk, please contact Gabriel Einsohn at einsohng@si.eduor (202) 633-1618.

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