May I Have the Piano Delivered to You?

Q&A with Artisphere Artist in Residence Emily Francisco

The work of this DC-based, American University MFA recipient utilizes a combination of sculpture, time-based media, and process documentation. Select pieces, including The Trans-Harmonium: A Listening Device —an antique piano keyboard wired to a system of tuned radios—are available for interaction at Artisphere on Fridays 6-10pm and Saturdays noon-6pm.

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: What I do is primarily informed by installation and sculpture, but there is also the element of chance. The element of chance informs not only the visual aesthetics of my work, but also aids in the creation of indeterminate music. I work with discarded objects and objects that are no longer useful. I give them a new way to function. I alter the expectations of familiar objects by modifying the way these objects function in order to make the unexpected happen.

Q: What are you working on during your residency at Artisphere?

A: I’m currently taking apart a baby grand piano. It was donated under the condition that I make a small remembrance of the piano for its former owners. I completed a small sculpture to return to the family, and the rest of the materials are mine to work with. Right now I am developing a project involving the piano’s harp, while simultaneously developing a project with involving a harpsichord that was also donated to my studio. The harpsichord was donated by the Katzen Arts Center’s Facilities Management Department, and I am using it to develop a Variation on an Ocular Harpsichord. The idea of the Ocular Harpsichord was initially proposed by French mathematician Louis Bertrand Castel in 1725, and I am working on a simplified version involving a playable harpsichord that triggers a system of color tinted closed circuit videos. I am hoping to complete the harpsichord project before the end of December, allowing people to interact with the object throughout the holidays. I will continue to develop new work throughout the duration of the residency.

Q: How are people interacting with your work in the space at Artisphere?

A: I’ve noticed that adults are often afraid to interact with my work in spaces like this, but when children come here and see keyboards they instinctively start playing with everything. It’s been great having a variety of people passing through the studio, because everyone behaves differently in the space.

Q: What have you found particularly gratifying about your residency?

A: Having access to this much space to work is an incredible privilege. Also, because Artisphere is so open and diverse, I’ve enjoyed getting feedback from families and kids, as well as intellectuals offering serious critiques. This residency has been serving as an incredible educational experience, as I have been learning a great deal about people and how they respond to the objects in my studio.

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