It’s easy to dismiss the technologies of yesteryear as simply outdated and of no use, but Taylor Lee Shepherd of New Orleans finds value in the discarded products of our past. “I find that newer consumer technology has a lot of problems and instability. I really try to work with analog systems,” he explains. “The best technologies for my pieces are really from the '50s.” And as an artist and sound designer, he uses these “old-fashioned” electronics to create interactive environments that involve both the audio and the visual.
For Dolby®, Shepherd created an installation of 20 CRT televisions (not your modern flat screens) that he converted into homemade oscilloscopes. Without getting too technical, he essentially rewired the TVs internally to accept an audio signal through a set of microphones and amplifiers and then translate the sound waves to display them two-dimensionally on the screens; a “visual interpretation of the voices, footsteps, and sounds around them,” he explains. The physical setup of the piece — TVs installed on hard shelves, the materials purposely in view — is part of the overall aesthetic. “A lot of things I make are kind of exposed. I like the nuts and bolts of what’s going on,” Shepherd says. That idea of full exposure plays into the project’s inspiration as well: a desire to make something visible that wasn’t before. “[The oscillators] make something available to your senses that wouldn’t normally be available. When you can see sound, it can be incredibly mesmerizing.... I feel like that’s what we’re looking for in art in a lot of ways — a revelation of sorts, something you wouldn’t see or feel before.”
So if you’ve still got an old predigital television lying around, pass it off to Shepherd, and it can become art instead of trash. “The project kind of makes me want to become a traveling TV disrepair man, collecting and messing up TVs,” he laughs.