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Listen up?

The Silent Chamber

Runs Oct. 21–Jan. 29, 2012

In media jargon, an “echo chamber” refers to an “enclosed space” where information, ideas or beliefs are amplified and/or reinforced through its repeated proliferation and repetition. Its studied effect often comes at a cost to critical discourse, this year alone already throwing its fair share of stories into the reverberating abyss: President Obama’s birth certificate, the Casey Anthony murder trial, anything the Koch Brothers say or do.

Saturday Night Live veteran, ex-Spinal Tap member, voice of The Simpson’s Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders and now a working video artist, Harry Shearer is no stranger to the media’s behind-the-scenes antics. His multi-screen installation The Silent Echo Chamber is a series of popular politicians and media personalities in the quiet moments before they “go live” on camera–giving viewers a chance to see James Carville, Hilary Clinton and Dr. Phil before they become “James Carville,” “Hilary Clinton,” and “Dr. Phil.” It’s funny. It’s eerie. It’s uncomfortable. It’s shared with a sensitive awkwardness only someone with television roots can share.

That Shearer designates the term “Found Objects” to these private snippets he’s collected over the years, via the web, shows an astute awareness of the ever-shifting Wikipedia-ized world of data/information we live in. At three years old, the series already feels somewhat dated, but perhaps that serves the insular queries at its RGB color model core… What about the “enclosed spaces” of Media Messiahs like social media, for instance? What does the echo chamber of Twitter look and sound like?

The Contemporary Museum, 2411 Makiki Heights Dr., runs Tue.–Sat., 10/21–1/29/12, 10am–4pm; Sun., 12–4pm, $5–$10, [honoluluacademy.org], 526-0232