In his work, Brian Conley complicates the natural order of things. Translating scientific research and data into abstracted simulations with humorous subtexts, Conley consistently renders the natural unnatural and the serious absurd. From large-scale sculpture to live-radio broadcasts and interactive sound installations, Conley’s work presents unlikely circumstances as logical possibilities for locating human experience within a continuum bounded by technology and nature.
Continuing an investigation into evolution and the divide between animals and humans, Conley’s project for ArtPace centers on a species of frog and its distinct mating call. Using research from both zoology and neuroscience, Conley has constructed a room-sized mechanical sculpture based on a frog’s vocal communication system.
In this installation, the viewer enters a dimly lit exhibition space. Emerging from the shadows is a 15-foot tall aluminum contraption attached to a large orange cloth draped across the floor. Inside this low-tech structure sits a row of wooden organ pipes and a wide, funnel-like horn. Activated by the viewer’s entrance into the space, the cloth sack quickly inflates to a 10 x 24-foot balloon, simulating an oversized vocal pouch. Voluptuous and intimidating, its overwhelming size reverses the typical human/animal dynamic suggesting instead a giant frog and a small human being.
As the balloon slowly deflates, it forces air through several acoustic sound-generating devices to a funnel directed at the viewer, issuing a series of discordant noises—the frog’s mating call. Because the mating call is the only language in which the frog is able to communicate, this first moment of “contact” between human and frog is loaded with absurd sexual innuendo. Monstrous yet alluring, the work reorganizes the hierarchical relationship between human and animals, albeit with a humorous twist.
Conley’s investigations locate the intersection of science, philosophy, art, technology, and the improbable. Reinterpreting information into an analogue of its original source, Conley transforms our assumptions of the natural world into limitless questions.