Documenting, Becher style, the morphological range of the bandshells that she encountered
in parks throughout California and the Midwest, Bernard leaves both the
audience area and the stage empty, shifting the focus to a form of civic architecture.
From a 1928 World War I memorial, the Battell Park Band Shelter in Mishawaka,
Indiana, to the 1996 Metrostage in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the bandshells shelter
the players but also serve as a rudimentary amplification technology, one that is
simultaneously shaped by scientific understanding and stylistic trends. Reduced to
a consistent, diminutive scale, they can be seen as diagrams for how sound works,
architectonic analogues of the famous pebble dropped into a pool of still water,
even as they undergo all the formal permutations of loudspeaker design.
These compositions elegantly overcome the pointed discrepancy between what a
photograph is and what it is “of.” Sitting atop the horizon line that bisects each
image, the bandshells conflate the perspectival recession of the visual with the eddying
projection of the aural. As the silence that is germane to the medium becomes
figurally pervaded with sound, it gives way to an aesthetic that is autonomous,
in that it resists translation into words, but is not apolitical. Like Bernard’s earlier
photographs, these position the viewer not to one side or th e other so much as
right in between: between production and reception, picture and sound, the aesthetic
and the social-at the very sites where culture is negotiated.