One of the most synasthetic experiences I have ever had was evoked by Christian Marclay’s “White Noise” installation, which I saw/heard back in 2003 at the UCLA Hammer Museum. The wall of photos–all pinned backward, their scrawled descriptions luring errant hands to turn them over–not only evokes static visually, but the sound of “white noise” internally–emotionally and physically. My desire to turn the photos over was extremely strong, matched only my strained discipline–being in a museum, touching is forbidden. So I stalked the backs of the photographs, pacing ferally back and forth, listening, feeling, and watching the unsettling static.
This week–I noticed this same sound again while driving around here in Binghamton, New York. The traffic here is not bad–quite the opposite. There is only a trickle of cars, even at rush hour. The problem is the traffic lights, which seemingly exist to create traffic rather than direct it. Because the traffic is so light, the lights are seemingly set irrespective of the other–and they are not equipped with sensors to flip the lights if there are no other cars on the road. Having grown up in Southern California, where the lights are exquisitely timed and sensored and traffic is a science, the ill-timed lights especially raise my hackles. As much as I don’t miss real “traffic,” I do miss flow. Here in Binghamton, I often wait my turn at one light–by myself, the red light blowing mockingly in the wind–for no one to pass for several minutes, only to get a green and make it to the next light. . .just in time for it to turn yellow and then red, for absolutely no one. I feel the taunting desire to run the light, to blast through the parkway as I should be able to, riding the green lights on into the sunset, and I hear/feel the unmistakeable “white noise” that Marclay taught me about over a decade ago.