Home Arts & Entertainment Art Artist Profile: “Whisper” by Emily Kennerk at 250 Monroe

Artist Profile: “Whisper” by Emily Kennerk at 250 Monroe


By Jennifer Lugo – Collegiate Staff


Kennerk won the 2015 ArtPrize public vote in the category of time based works. She received $12,500.

Emily Kennerk found her inspiration at the Grand Canyon when she lost her dog. Photo by Kayla Tucker
Emily Kennerk found her inspiration at the Grand Canyon when she lost her dog. Photo by Kayla Tucker Kayla Tucker - Editor-in-Chief | The Collegiate Live

Five days after making the juror’s shortlist of the Top 20, Emily Kennerk from Zionsville, Indiana  also learned she has won the hearts of the public.  Kennerk, 42, has a time-based piece titled “Whisper,” and has received enough votes to make it through to round two of the popular vote Oct. 4.

Upon exiting the elevator on the 2nd floor of 250 Monroe, there’s a room behind the wall facing that elevator. In that room lies a piece that looks deceiving. A black, oblong table stretches 80 feet across the floor in front of the windows. Delicate china sets the stage, scattered along the table, broken pieces lying on the floor, along with broken glasses, and strewn silverware.

At first, it just looks like a mess. That is until someone whispers in the microphone set out in front. Even with no speakers, the place settings on the table shake, rattle, and roll. They move around, leaving traces on the table, and eventually fall to the floor.

“Whisper”  is a project about the principles of sound.

“The table becomes the cone,” Kennerk said, explaining how the sound is transmitted from the table to the place settings, causing the dishes, silverware, and glasses to move around the table and sometimes fall to the floor.

“This is an exploration of how sound is a three dimensional object,” Kennerk said. “So we understand it’s a wave, but it also has a form. It has impact. It has dimensions and shape. It can move things. It can suspend things. It can make things fall and drop on the floor. It can also leave a mark.”

But the sound is not just a simple flat noise.

“If you yell and scream, or even talk loud into the mic, nothing happens,” Kennerk said.  “You have to whisper.”

Kennerk explained how the driving force behind this project was a trip with some friends and her dog to Death Valley. While out in the great expanses, her dog ran off. Just before finding him, they were calling his name, and she noticed a physical element to the sounds of their voices.

“Our voices were literally just dropping right in front of us,” Kennerk recalled. “It was a really physical moment. So I started looking at the principle of sound.”

“This defines art and science,” a fan of the exhibit said to Kennerk, after speaking with her.

ArtPrize crowds gather from all over, making Kennerk’s first experience a memorable one.

“I’ve met someone from Australia, some Germans, and a really nice couple from England,” Kennerk said.

When looking closely at the table, it is easy to see marks all along the length of it.

“On top of the table you can see the marks of all the whispers from Grand Rapids,” said Kennerk. “Even the quietest whisper can have an impact. Every word you say is here forever because it has a physical impact.”

Kennerk is from Indianapolis, Indiana, and a first time ArtPrize artist. She heard about Artprize several years ago, but never thought about entering until this year. After her research on sound, she started out with a 12 foot table with place settings at a show called ‘Supply and Demand’ in Indianapolis in March.

Kennerk decided to apply for ArtPrize Pitch Night, which she won. The money she received helped her create the project. She did an upscale version of the piece, using a longer table and more place settings, increasing the impact.

“I won at pitch night, and I felt then like I already won because I got to make this piece that I never thought I’d get to make.” Kennerk said.

After hearing that she made the juror’s shortlist, Kennerk said she was shocked.

“I’m so amazed and shocked by the community of ArtPrize,” Kennerk said. “It all works together. It’s like the perfect storm. I don’t think ArtPrize can really happen anywhere else. The people are awesome and so is the community buy-in. Everybody’s involved. Even at the checkout at the grocery store, people get excited. They ask you what your favorite piece is and people talk to you. The next thing you know you’re having conversations about art at the gas pump. That is what is so amazing.”

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