Kelly, Stephen


Gallery-specific Installation
August 14 – September 18, 2009
Artist talk and reception: Thursday, August 13, 7pm



During his four-week tenure as KIAC Artist in Residence, Kelly produced this installation for the ODD Gallery, a work that effectively traslocates our oceans into the confines of a gallery setting. Using real-time data provided by several oceanic buoys operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Open Tuning is a mesmerizing kinetic sculpture and sonic environment that responds simultaneously to the ebbs and flows of the oceans that surround us.

The wave patterns recorded by these monitoring buoys are transmitted into the gallery via the internet and then transposed into motion and sound through Kelly’s engineering and software design. Within the gallery space, ocean waves become sound waves; wave patterns and fluctuations are rendered suddenly visible. Conflating the natural world with our constructed environment, this installation evokes both our connections to the sea–environmental, economic and cultural–and our disassociation from it. Open Tuning reminds us that while our many of our shared global experiences, interactions and modes of survival are reliant on the sea, often this connection remains an abstraction, a mediated experience, an easily overlooked aspect to what we often consider a pretty view, a point on a map,  perhaps a travel destination. Blending technology, aesthetics and a sense of social urgency, this meditative installation reveals how  the environments that sustain us are often viewed through the lens of distance and misunderstanding, nostagia and emotional projection–a non-critical acceptance of the status-quo.


My art practice is largely based on sound and auditory phenomena. I find sound to be an incredibly versatile medium because it takes up no physical space, leaves no lasting trace (at reasonable volumes), and yet can exist almost anywhere to tell a story or convey meaning. My recent work ranges from producing and performing music to building experimental musical instruments to creating mechanized sound systems and installations. I have performed in various heavy metal, glam rock, and pop bands from an early age. Because of this history, I relate to much of what I experience through a musical language.

Electronics and computing technology play an integral role in my work both as materials and subjects. Much of my practice involves dissecting and experimenting with familiar electronic devices as a way of engaging with the increasingly technical structure of society. As a result, much of my work exists in a perpetual cycle of inquiry and discovery. The state of never-completely-knowing represents a loss of control that is integral to my creative process.

I am interested in the distance between the industrial manufacturing environment where everyday household devices are born and the domestic environments they populate. This distance in many ways reflects the more general gulf between nature and technology. I see the mystery and complexity found both in nature and in technological devices as an invitation to investigate the inner workings of both, to contemplate their awkward relationship to one another.


STEPHEN KELLY holds a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and currently is studying computer science at Dalhousie University.

Kelly’s installations have been featured in solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax) and Centre des arts actuels SKOL (Montreal). His work has also been featured in group exhibitions at the Eastern Edge (Saint John’s, NF), Gallery 1313 (Toronto), Current Gallery (Baltimore) and Galleri F-15 (Moss, Norway).

His most recent musical project, with Eleanor King, is The Just Barelys. Kelly currently works as Broadcast Technician at CKDU-FM.