Euan Macdonald reflects on the piano in his '9,000 Pieces' exhibit 

Pianos go through an intensive stress test before being sold — machines pound on the keys and pedals relentlessly, with enough impact in nine minutes to measure a lifetime of durability.

A remarkable video of the process is at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of former San Francisco resident Euan Macdonald’s “9,000 Pieces” exhibit, his first Bay Area show in six years, which features five commissioned works reflecting on the piano.

Macdonald is known for using loops and superimposed visuals in video works that play with the power of digital images to undermine notions of truth. He captures everyday moments on video, using the material to challenge viewers’ expectations of ordinary situations.

Taken in a Shanghai  factory, the nine-minute video of the high-speed stress test on the piano’s 9,000 parts is loud, jarring and mind-numbing.

It’s certainly interesting, but where is the art? It’s mostly in the prose accompanying the show, which consists of four new works “investigating globalization, perception and temporality through a single object, the piano.”

Besides the video, the other components of the small show are drawings of pianos owned by Elvis Presley, John Lennon and others, a “two-channel video work” showing two tuning forks and a silkscreen series based on text by Charles Bukowski.

“9,000 Pieces” is part of the YBCA’s “Big Idea SOAR: The Search for Meaning,” which highlights art that organizers say “focuses on ideas of transcendence and transformation” — although it’s hard to see what the connection is between the show’s simple items and those high-minded concepts.

Organized by visual arts adjunct curator Julio César Morales, the exhibition is presented as part of “PAUSE: Practice and Exchange,” described as a new series of “process-based exhibitions” with artists in residence from the Bay Area and around the world.

Key components, according to the YBCA, are “cross-generational projects and multidisciplinary collaborative artworks with a focus on influence, process and mentorship from both international and local artists.”


9,000 Pieces

Where: Upstairs galleries, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., San Francisco
When: Noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays; closes June 12
Tickets: $5 to $7
Contact: (415) 978-2787,

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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