The National Endowment for the Arts has won a Golden Fleece of the Month Award for a $7,000 grant to fund a sound and light show designed to "turn Wisconsin's state capitol building into a geometrically tuned instrument which will bring together and send forth human and planetary energies in a message of world peace," according to a press release issued by Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.).
The Fleece is awarded monthly by Proxmire for what he considers examples of waste of taxpayers' dollars. "While attempting to tune in and turn on," said Proxmire in his release, "this project has only turned off the American taxpayer."
NEA chairman Frank Hodsoll, who was home sick yesterday, said, "I don't know about it. I know it happened before my time at the NEA . I'm certainly going to find out about it."
The show, called Lenguas De Luz (Tongues or Languages of Light), was performed by a group of Madison, Wis., artists last Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice, a date chosen because of "heightened energies." The project involved 16 loudspeakers and a complex lighting system, some of which failed to work.
According to the performers: "For nine hours, a series of time-delayed voice overlays will be sent through the speakers around the outside of the capitol dome. The overlays will use the word 'ocean,' specially chosen since its sound frequencies are best suited to stimulate the crystalline structure of the building."
The capitol building, said the show's sponsors, "is located on the site of an ancient mound which once was part of a giant zodiacal wheel used by ancient tribes in rites combining the energies of earth and space. It is hoped that the new combination of sound frequencies and colors will vibrationally interact with the magnetic energies intersecting at the capitol mound. The building will become a giant energy pyramid, spiralling the 'Tongues of Light' out into the universe to join with other voices -- past, present, and future --as a message of peace and hope."
Said one Proxmire aide, "We're not criticizing the artist -- if he wants to do conceptual art, fine. The question is -- is this a program which should be federally funded?"
"It was sort of on the cutting edge of the arts," said Eunice Lockhart-Moss, assistant director of the NEA's Expansion Arts program, which made the grant. "It appeared to be an experimental light and sound project -- which is what is being done in the arts."
The funds granted for the light show were at first earmarked for the Equinox Festival, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and the Madison YMCA. The festival, which has a history of being well-run and of high quality, according to both the NEA and the Proxmire release, was awarded the grant last September. But in November, the project director asked if the funds could be transferred to the light show. The University of Wisconsin agreed to remain sponsor, according to an NEA memo. The NEA's Expansion Arts program, which awarded the grant, agreed to the transfer