Trash talking: Ellis and Lange thump the dump

David Ellis and Roberto Carlos Lange, "Bling."
David Ellis and Roberto Carlos Lange, "Bling."
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Don’t be fooled. Peering through the large plate glass windows at The Bridge, you might make the mistake of thinking the space is in transition. Whatever was on show has come down, and all that’s left is a stretch of rubbish and refuse along the back wall.

But that’s the art. (Seriously.)

What at first appears to be a jumble of metal and plastic garbage cans, paint buckets, translucent trash bags stuffed with shredded paper, lumber scraps, and brown-paper bags filled with bottles and cardboard for recycling is, in fact, a carefully orchestrated–in every sense of the word–large-scale sculpture. Artist David Ellis has used the inner workings of a player piano to wire this collection of detritus to play a percussive score written by composer Roberto Carlos Lange. The result is “Bling.”

In several respects, Ellis and Lange’s piece recalls Invisible’s “Rhythm 1001” installation at Second Street Gallery last May. Both reflect the current zeitgeist in the art world to salvage aesthetic worth from our throwaway culture, and both tap into the cutting-edge field of sound art. But whereas the members of Invisible actively played the junkyard instruments created by Mark Dixon, electrical cords and thumpers openly in view, “Bling” appears to play itself. Ellis has hidden the robotics to yield an unabashedly trashy animated dump that humorously suggests garbage lives on even after we’re done with it.

The metal handles of white buckets thwack their sides, as a small black vinyl case’s lid opens and closes. The shredded paper rustles in its bags, while lumber scraps knock into each other. Interestingly, the most unlikely items yield some of the most compelling sounds, such as the metallic rattle of an unlatched suitcase lock. Lange’s 45-minute looped composition ensures viewers are unlikely to see or hear the same sequence of funky beats twice.

As the complex rhythms move back and forth across the length of the sculpture, the visual cleverness of Ellis’s work becomes apparent. For instance, he’s subtly positioned a garbage-filled paper bag to reveal a red print of WWI-era military men on its side. In another case, he’s placed a pair of paint-spattered shoes on a turquoise three-ring binder atop an overturned plastic garbage can, wired so the shoes seem to dance on the binder when the drum within the can is triggered.

Ellis and Lange’s “Bling” may have a heart of garbage, but it dazzles like a diamond.

David Ellis and Roberto Lange’s installation, “Bling,” is on view through September 26 at The Bridge. Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 12-3pm. 209 Monticello Road. 984-5669.