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Action Required: Michael Brewster and Sound as Sculpture

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This project examines the early sound works Michael Brewster produced during the beginning and mid-1970s in Los Angeles, California. Using sound to create an immersive environment was central to Brewster’s methods, and, as such, he has often been assigned the label of a “sound artist” by scholars such as Brandon LaBelle. My text refutes this position. Brewster did not think of himself as a sound artist. Instead, he conceived of himself as a sculptor working in the medium of sound. Through a close examination of previously unseen archival material, this project constructs a new history of Brewster’s methods that include how he conceived of his sculptures as being both part of and apart from their environment. Rethinking the category of sculpture, Brewster was part of the well-documented deconstruction of this institutionalized genre and the subsequent extension of sculpture’s definition that occurred throughout this period of art history. Brewster’s contribution to this expanded pluralism is his rejection of sound as an ephemeral material and, instead, his development of it as stationary and tactile form. In constructing this history, I move Brewster’s oeuvre from an isolated position within the category of sound art to a more diverse area that locates it between the aural and the visual realms.

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