Stephen Vitiello: All Those Vanished Engines
MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA
An installation by Stephen Vitiello
Lighting Design: Jeremy Choate
Text: Paul Park
Sound Engineer: Bob Bielecki
Sound artist Stephen Vitiello created All Those Vanished Engines especially for the MASS MoCA boiler house. This building is a relic from the industrial past of the site and was once used to heat the factory buildings that now make up the museum. Starting with the inherent resonance of the pipes and metal drums in the space, Vitiello built a layered sound installation that can be explored throughout the first two floors of the building. All Those Vanished Engines is a long-term installation that is open seasonally from May to October .
The narrative (and title) for All Those Vanished Engines comes from a commissioned text by novelist Paul Park. (Read it here.) The story serves as the thematic structure and blueprint for Vitiello’s installation. The text and concepts consider a possible reading of the building as a façade for a secret, experimental project to explore the industrial production of sound. Told by two narrators visiting a fictional worker of boiler house, Park’s story recalls the history of the building as both a producer of sounds as well as a structure haunted by its production. Park writes: “After all, sound was what had animated the entire structure, in memory, and in the actual past, and was still animating it, for example, right now.”
Vitiello utilized Park’s text in order to bring back to life the sounds of the boiler house’s “vanished engines,” mixing ambient sound within haunting excerpts from the story. As visitors move through the space, the soundscape is ever changing, and at any given moment, sounds may move towards the listener or fade away; alternating between moments of clatter and calm. This is a space to spend time in, exploring the building’s unique character as Vitiello’s audio washes over you.
Supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund