Los Dos Lados

Clear plastic tubes equipped with motion sensors dangle from the womb’s ceiling, forming wind-chimey patterns. The slightest movement inside the structure is picked up by the sensors and met with an immediate aural response. One side of the womb produces environmental static recorded in Tijuana, while the other end answers simple motion with harsh gunshots lifted straight from popular media reports of violence at the border.

After a few minutes of experimentation, you begin to learn a sense of the womb’s sonic patterns, and how to manipulate your movements in order to change volume, pitch and speed.

“Media Womb,” a collaboration between Giacoma Castagnola, Camilo Ontiveros, Nina Waisman and Felipe Zuniga — three of whom studied visual art at UCSD — imposes on us a sense of hope. Upon understanding the space, its noise is no longer dictated by the programmed womb, which represents popular media. Rather, the decision-making power is shifted onto ourselves as individuals: We can now control this environment in sonic expression.


Step into the normally orderly Atkinson Hall in Earl Warren College and your ears are met with muffled sonic chaos, emanating from Calit2’s Gallery Interior.

Computer music graduate student José Ignacio López Ramírez-Gastón is the guilty party, with his peace-disturbing installation “24 Speakers and 24 Sound Sources.” Standing outside the double doors, the artist smiled.

“They usually keep these doors open,” López said. “But because of the sound, they had to close them.”

And that’s precisely the point of “24 Speakers.” Through interactive audio and visuals, López’ art draws attention to the stark cultural contrast between geographically adjacent cities Tijuana and San Diego. The artist strives to force a little disorder from south of the border onto UCSD’s ultra clean campus.

“Tijuana and San Diego depend on each other, and the contrast between them enriches our lives in so many ways,” López said. “There is much we can learn from accepting the power of our multicultural environment.”

Open the doors holding the Tijuana native’s work, and the full acoustic effect hits a gust of sonic wind. Streaming through an eclectic collection of audio sources — including tape recorders and used speakers as large as small children — are two TJ radio stations and a CD containing horn-heavy Latin music straight from a Tijuana street market.

Spanning three walls, the speakers and other noisemakers are evenly spaced in a semicircle, crudely connected with wires and cables that pile in a jumbled mess upon a small table — eventually leading to a stereo receiver with its circuit board exposed. Two old-school television sets play a staticky live feed of Tijuana TV.

The setup is so low-tech, López said, that the audience is invited to mess with faders and see what happens — ensuring no two people will ever experience the piece in the same way. By choosing not to use hi-tech commodities like computer programming, López questions the conventional approach to sonic installations.

“Is sound experimentation dependent on access to expensive technology?” he asked. “I am trying to represent a sound space that is based in the cultural strategies of informal and marginalized communities — communities that in this case are right next door.”