Bill Fontana: Spiraling Echoes

February 13 - December 11, 2009
SFAC Gallery, Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall

Spiraling Echoes is a site-specific sound sculpture which was created for the Rotunda of SF City Hall by internationally renowned, Bay Area sound art pioneer Bill Fontana. For this work, Fontana created an original soundtrack of past and present audio moments recorded throughout San Francisco, from Enrico Caruso’s voice to cable car bells. Commissioned as part of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery’s Art at City Hall program, the site-specific installation was designed to interact with the architecture of San Francisco’s historic City Hall. Spiraling Echoes was installed through May 8, 2009 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the City Hall renovation. Four specialized speakers called transducers, which narrowly focus sound, were mounted around the circular colonnade inside the dome. The richly-layered soundtrack pairing urban noises with historical recordings, was reflected off the surfaces of the architectural elements, creating spiraling echoes that become gradually softer as they move from the upper walkways to the floor of the Rotunda.

As visitors walked through the Rotunda, they were surprised and delighted by the natural sounds of birds singing, echoing fog horns on the Bay, or the crack of a bat and the noise of the crowd at AT&T Park. Bill Fontana stated, “Spiraling Echoes activates the architecture of City Hall with the movement of sound. Encountering the installation will evoke a rethinking of the history and context of this site.”

Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs added, “Spiraling Echoes is a milestone in the Art at City Hall program.  It is the premiere exhibition in our triennial project to commission internationally renowned artists to create site-specific installations for San Francisco’s treasured City Hall.  We are delighted that it will also bring attention to San Francisco resident Bill Fontana who has created his first substantial work for the Bay Area in 20 years.”

Curator: Meg Shiffler 
Assistant Curator: Justine Topfer