Luke Blackstone

Call of the Siren

bricks, powder coated steel tubing, compressed air, mechanical linkages, aluminum
7ft. X 8 ft. X 14 ft.
Call of the Siren refers to the turn of the century New York firehouse style architecture (the style of the new Fire Station # 10) by including two red brick pillars with arches made of steel tubing The arches and connecting members form an enlarged and simplified siren shape, which is also recognizable as a symbolic canopy or shelter. This shape is in concert with the notion of the sound of the siren evoking a protective or comforting feeling (as long as the siren is not coming directly to you!). The turn of the century was a transitional period of time when the power source of firefighting equipment changed from horses and steam to the gasoline engine. Bells, gongs, and steam whistles were most commonly used to alert firefighters and the public of fire in the community. In the early years of the 1900ís, hand cranked sirens were installed on fire trucks and engines, followed by electromechanical versions. Huge, powerful electric motor-driven sirens were later placed on or around fire halls to signal both volunteer and professional fire fighters. Although sirens are no longer sounded at urban fire halls (except in extreme emergencies), fire trucks and engines still use this universally recognizable sound to alert the public. The siren was, and continues to be an important component of firefighting. Historical firefighting equipment is engaging to most firefighters as well as to the general public (including the younger members). Thus, it is not unusual to see a fire engine included in a parade, or to come across large museums throughout North America (and the world) filled with antique fire fighting apparatus; from elaborate and functional steam pumpers, to speaking trumpets, to brass nozzles. For this reason, this project will be interactive with the public via a simple hand crank that can be operated by the viewer. The crank turns shafts, which rotate a perforated disc mounted near the top of the structure. This action also permits compressed air (supplied by the air compressor in the fire hall) to flow through the perforations, generating a soft and subtle siren sound audible only to those nearby. The flow of air through perforations is the basic operating principle of all mechanical sirens. Thus, the viewer is invited through this artwork, to actively generate the quintessential call to the Brotherhood, Sisterhood, and surrounding neighbourhood.