Trimpin’s Interactive Sound Sculptures Return to Winston Wächter Fine Art

Since the early 1980s, Trimpin’s inventive, site-specific sound installations have pushed the boundaries of interactive art. “My work is not about metaphor, but about metaphysics,” the German-born artist has said. Now in his mid-60s and based in Seattle, the prolific scientist, engineer, inventor, composer, and MacArthur fellow has adapted to audio/visual technologies that have changed drastically over the years he’s been sharing his work with the world.

Trimpin, who goes by his last name, specializes in the visualization of sound. He cites influences as divergent as Frank Zappa, Merce Cunningham, Cecil Taylor, and Leonardo da Vinci as he integrates the sensibilities of avant-garde movement and studio engineering into his often large-scale kinetic works. To create symphonic works, his sculptures may integrate such varied material as office lamps, Bunsen burners, Tupperware, and aircraft cables.

In one of his more renowned works, a two-year touring installation called Klompen (2006), 120 wooden clogs were hung from a ceiling and attached to unseen motion sensors on the floor; when gallery visitors walked below the clogs, a percussive rhythm was created by individual mallets within each clog. 

Trimpin’s interest in offbeat material isn’t just related to sound. “The balance between visual and aural in my work is not coincidental—I’m not content to create something which merely functions technically or is pleasing to the eye,” the artist has written. “It is the complexity of dimensions which offers the most satisfaction.”

For “Hear We Are,” his second solo exhibition at Winston Wächter Fine Art in Seattle, Trimpin uses new technology like the Microsoft Kinect to create visitor-activated listening and performance stations. The show, which is based on a live installation at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, iterates on a single score. Throughout the gallery space, pressure sensors on the floor trigger reed-horn compositions; at another station, donning headphones causes a record player to open and start playing. These interactive sculptures are complemented by wild and expressive musical scores on wood panels, their sounds once again made visual.


—M. Osberg


Hear We Are” is on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art, Seattle, Jan. 20–Mar. 9, 2016.

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