Lawrence English New Public Sound Artwork Installation ‘Seirá’ Incorporates Cold War Era Air Raid Sirens During ‘AxS Festival’

A musical instrument for Fulcrum Arts Lawrence English installation of Seirá as part of AxS Festival: City as Wunderkammer. Photo courtesy of Fulcrum Arts.

Do you remember the sound of the air raid sirens that went off like clockwork at 10:00 a.m. on the last Friday of every month during the Cold War in Los Angeles?

Those of us lived at the time to hear this “Alert signal” (or Attention signal), which was about a three to five-minute steady blaring “blast” used to test (presumably) the warning system in order to alert us of an “impending natural disaster or a ‘peacetime’ emergency”—IE an incoming nuclear missile.

During the arms race in the 80’s, the sound of these regularly scheduled interval tests—coupled with the Duck and Cover campaign of educational propaganda films exposed students in the schoolroom—was, simply put, incredibly chilling.

If perhaps you do recall it, you may actually still feel nostalgic when elements of that sound are modified and played, in composition, in Fulcrum Arts’ Lawrence English Seirá exhibit, as part of the AxS Festival: City as Wunderkammer, that begins tomorrow, Friday, November 2, 2018, at 5:59 p.m. Either way, you really may not want to miss this.

Composer Lawrence English. Photo by Peter Thiedeke.

Benefiting from a $40,000 Grant awarded from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, this event will launch Fulcrum Arts’ 10-day art & science festival “AxS Festival: City as Wunderkammer” with a Seirá First Sounding at City Hall in Downtown LA, marking the opening of the festival for the first sounding of the siren.

The free and open public listening event will repeat every evening at dusk for the duration of the festival, in this same location, and at five additional locations throughout Los Angeles.

Australian artist, composer, and curator English with his new sound artwork “re-appropriates” the antiquated and decommissioned L.A. Civil Defense System using its networked air raid sirens throughout the county as “a means considering sound’s evolving role in the public sphere,” according to the AxS’ site.

Every day at dusk, a twelve minute sound composition by English will be broadcast simultaneously across six of the remaining civil defense siren sites across the greater Los Angeles area.

You might get an idea of what that will sound like here.

The broadcasts, whose dates and minute times run in a countdown, are scheduled from November 2-11, 2018. Although it is mapping the greater part of Los Angeles County, the work can only be experienced locally.

Be sure to be at City Hall at dusk just prior to 5:59 p.m. for the launch on Friday, November, 2, 2018, to listen together for the first sounding of the siren.

Here is the schedule of the Siera installation performances and the six locations. Be sure to notice the exact times below.

Nov. 2, 5:59 p.m.
Nov. 3, 5:58 p.m.
Nov. 4, 4:57 p.m.
Nov. 5, 4:56 p.m.
Nov. 6, 4:55 p.m.
Nov. 7, 4:54 p.m.
Nov. 8, 4:54 p.m.
Nov. 9, 4:53 p.m.
Nov. 10, 4:52 p.m.
Nov. 11, 4:51 p.m.

125 S. Olive St.
N. Spring St. & W. Temple St.
E. 8th St. & S. Los Angeles St.
E. 14th St. & Santee St.
Marathon St. & N. Vermont Ave.
Valley Blvd. & Ronda Dr.

Lawrence English: Seirá



About Monique A. LeBleu

Monique A. LeBleu is a writer, photographer, videographer, and shameless foodie and wineaux. A love of film history and a background in film production, post-production, and film theory provide unique insights into her movie reviews. As well, a background in technical theater fuels her passion on all-things theater. As a foodie, living in the ever-growing and diverse culinary landscape that is the City of Los Angeles feeds her never-ending pursuit of the perfect comfort food—the world's best Mac n' Cheese!
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