Relative Fields in Motion: A Collaborative Improvisation

April 12, 7:30pm

April 13, 1:30pm

This improvised sound and dance performance is organized in conjunction with the site-specific installation, Relative Fields in Garden (2018). The first collaboration between portraitist Heidi Howard and her mother, pioneering interactive sound sculptor Liz Phillips, the work comprises a year-long commission for the Queens Museum’s Large Wall series for women-identified artists. Relative Fields in Motion will extend Howard and Phillips’ exploration of the politics of relation and simultaneity found in the domestic sphere of the garden, and further activate their work’s synaesthetic interplay between sound, image, and movement.

Directed by Howard, the performance combines saxophone by her father, virtuoso composer and performer Earl Howard with movement by dancer Cynthia Koppe, in an expanded sound installation by Phillips including ultrasonic sensor lines. As Koppe explores the brushing, dripping, slapping and layering of Howard’s painted actions, her gestures will be processed through Phillips’ installation to modulate, resonate, and sustain sounds, creating a live-responsive mix with the field recordings of bees, leaves, birds, trains and water that loop through the twenty speaker objects in the hundred-foot-long soundscape.

Howard’s saxophone improvisation will draw from real-time observations of the varying arrangement, as well as his intimate knowledge of the source recordings from his and Phillips’ Sunnyside, Queens garden. His live response will bring further form to this range of coincidental interactions produced among each artist’s investigation and the audience’s experience, merging the context of a private, urban garden with that of an interior public space, in one dynamic and interactive event.  


Cynthia Koppe is a New York based dancer. Born in Singapore, she holds a BA from Cornell University in Sociology and Dance. She has worked with Liz Santoro and Pierre Godard since 2008 and continues to work with their Paris-based company, Le Principe d’Incertitude. Cynthia was a member of Shen Wei Dance Arts from 2009-2016, helping to originate roles as well as performing repertory. She has also worked with Ellis Wood, Bill Young, Ryan McNamara, Sam Roeck, Adam Weinert and Christopher Williams, and was a reperformer in Marina Abramovic’s 2010 MoMA Retrospective. In addition to dancing, Cynthia teaches embodied movement through Pilates and Yoga.

Heidi Howard (b.1986, New York, NY) has exhibited her work at Nancy Margolis Gallery, New York, NY (2017, 2016, 2015), Gaa Gallery, Provincetown, MA and Cologne, Germany (2018, 2017), The Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ (2017), James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY (2016) and many more. She has been an artist in residence at Palazzo Monti (2018), Byrdcliffe (2014) and the Vermont Studio Center (2011). She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA from Columbia University. She lives and works in Queens, New York.

Liz Phillips (b. 1951, Jersey City, NJ) studied at Bennington College and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986. She has been making interactive sound installations for over four decades at venues such as Harvestworks on Governors Island, NY (2017); Creative Time (1981,2001); Lincoln Center, New York, NY (2002, 2001); the Jewish Museum, New York, NY (2002); Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria (1991, 1988); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1988, 1985); and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (1978) and many more.

Earl Howard (b. 1951, Los Angeles, CA) is an American avant-garde composer, arranger, saxophonist, synthesizer player and multi-instrumentalist. Howard is one of the pioneers of what is called “new” music. He has received numerous awards including, a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011), a grant from Harvard’s the Fromm Foundation, a Regents Fellowship at University of California, San Diego, and three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships. In 2004 His  first sound installation was commissioned for the Tiffany Collection at the Queens Museum of Art. Howard has also produced soundtracks for video artists including Nam June Paik and Mary Lucier.

Relative Fields in Motion is made possible, in part,  by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Support for Relative Fields in a Garden, 2018 is provided by Agnes Gund. The Large Wall series at Queens Museum is supported by The Ferriday Fund Charitable Trust. Relative Fields in a Garden was commissioned in conjunction with the exhibition, Queens International 2018: Volumes (October 7, 2018 – February 24, 2019). QI 2018 is made possible in part by support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Chai Trust. Exhibitions at the Queens Museum receive significant support from Ford Foundation. Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Lambent Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.

 “Relative Fields in a Garden” at the Queens Museum October 7, 2018 – August, 2019

Materials: Acrylic paint, ceramic, bamboo, birch veneer, mirror film, metal chairs, Serge analog synthesizer, sound transducers, light sensors and multichannel looping audio players

In their first artistic collaboration, mother Liz Phillips and daughter Heidi Howard present a multimedia mural and sound work. Howard, a painter, depicts Phillips, a sound artist, in her Sunnyside, Queens garden with fantastical flora that bridge representation and abstraction and transition through the seasons: spring on the left to winter on the right. In spring is Howard’s self-portrait, gazing into an ornate mirror. In fall, Howard painted a yellow floral scarf owned by her late grandmother Geraldine Phillips.

As part of her long-time work in interactive sound installation, Phillips has created sound fields using wave transmissions. Here, sculptural elements including ceramics made by Howard, bamboo, and birch veneer have become speakers through contact with a transducer, which converts electrical signals into tactile sound. They play Phillips’ continuously modulating composition–some of which was recorded in her garden–of seasonal wildlife, water, leaves, and city noises. With the use of sensors, these sounds respond to the passage of sunlight across the wall. Both the mural and the audio become increasingly abstracted in the winter section, where shard-like strips of mirror film are paired with distorted sounds of ice melting and people sorting cans and bottles. Visitors are invited to sit in three garden chairs previously owned by Geraldine. Also functioning as speakers, they vibrate with river sounds, in homage to her lifelong affinity for water.

Sound for Wavecrossings in Souvenirs: New New York Icons at Storefront for Art and Architecture, September 16th – November 18th, 2017


Blog for Wavecrossings on Governor’s Island, 2017

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BIYUU, Roulette, Brooklyn, NY, 2012

WATERFALL, Fredericke, Taylor Gallery, New York, NY,  2004

ECHO LOCATION, The Queens Museum, 2004

“Echo” is a poetic 3-D video projection that takes us into the kitchens of local ethnic restaurants. Two projectors converge on a spherical screen, creating warped double-exposures on the semi-translucent surface. Slow motion shots of dough being spun into sheets overlap with images of people laughing around a table, arranging breadbaskets, smoking pipes. The effect is mesmerizing, and the multicultural music playing enhances the dreamlike quality of the images…-Laurel Angrist, NY Arts Magazine


ECHO EVOLUTION, The Kitchen, 2002

This is an excerpt on a video from my exhibition at the Kitchen in NYC.This interactive installation uses custom designed neon tubes . Ultrasonic rangefinders pick up audience position and motion. Light flows and shifts color with motion and stillness of audience. Sound samples morph and locate in space. Sounds are made from samples of spinning objects and digital sound and signal processing.


This is a prologue to the interactive installation of the same name presented by Creative Time at the Anchorage in the summer of 2001. It was part of the last show, Massless Medium, permitted in that amazing space under the Brooklyn Bridge. In only a month or two 9.11 would end all that. This is the story behind the project, as told by Liz Phillips, one of the pioneers of interactive sound art.

Intermingling, 2002 The Jewish Museum




An interactive light and sound installation using capacitance and ultrasonics to pick up audience motion and respond with sound events radiated from highly directional homemade loudspeakers (the bowl, vase, horns on the ceiling and in boxes.

Mersonic Illuminations, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria, 1992


This interactive sound installation uses sensors to locate fish (light) and audience (ultrasonic) and feedback sound and light structures. The idea for this work is taken from a childhood experience of ice skating on a pond filled with swimming carp.

Graphite Ground,The Whitney Museum, Capp Street Project , San Francisco, CA, 1988

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A dry rock garden with natural copper conductors radiating fields, Sounds shift and distribute themselves time-sharing and orienting themselves to the presence and activity of the viewers.


Fluid Sound, 1988
Kala Institute, Berkely, California



Fish and audience activated environment with a pool of koi and sand paths for audience observation and interaction. Two ultrasonic systems are used to sense the fish and the audience.

Sound Syzygy, 1983
Walker Art Center

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Sound Syzygy was part of an installation commissioned by the Walker Art Center for John Cage’s 60th birthday. It uses three ultrasonic range finders to locate and feeds back a quadraphonic synthesized soundscape.


Sunspots, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1982

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Sunspots is a site-specific sound installation that is tuned to the room in which it’s heard. Audience presence and nearness to a copper coiled arch and suspended brass screen determine the combination of sounds.



Sound Syzygy Quicktime, 11MB

Walker Art Center Quicktime, 6.2MB

Sound Tables Quicktime, 2.2MB

Graphite Ground Quicktime, 1.5MB

Graphite Ground Quicktime, 1.5MB

Cymbal Quicktime, 9.7MB

Fish Quicktime, 10.8MB

Wave Table Quicktime, 90.6MB

Collaborating with Nam Jun Paik and Robert Kovich Quicktime, 125.2MB

Windspun Quicktime, 24.6MB

Echo Location Quicktime, 109.9MB

Waterfall Quicktime, 43MB

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