Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends

*Mud Muse*

Robert Rauschenberg with engineers Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank LaHaye, Jim Wilkinson. Mud Muse. 1968-1971

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Robert Rauschenberg with engineers Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank LaHaye, Jim Wilkinson. Mud Muse, 1968–71. Bentonite mixed with water in aluminum-and-glass vat, with sound-activated compressed-air system and control console. Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Gift of the New York Collection

Julie Martin: This work is Mud Muse.

Leah Dickerman: Julie Martin collaborated with Rauschenberg.

Julie Martin: And the idea was that sound would make this mud bubble. However, it turned out you would have to use sound much too high, and it would pierce people's eardrums. So they worked out a system so that sound opens the different valves around the bottom of the tank, releases air, and you get the mud bubbling.

The night before the opening at the museum, Bob asked some musician friends to come in. They played music to Mud Muse. It was recorded. The bubbles were recorded. And then Mud Muse now dances to the sound of its own dancing, so to speak.

Gunnar Marklund: The sound from the bubbles is the same sound that activate the sound.

Leah Dickerman: Gunnar Marklund installs and maintains Mud Muse at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

Gunnar Marklund: In discotheques in the 70s, they had this disco sequencers, so you could see lightbulbs blinking to the music and this is the same system, so if you have a bubble sound that was very low, low range, then you could see some kind of bubbles bubbling, and then you go up in the high range, other bubbles was bubbling.

Julie Martin: Another thing that's very interesting is it's a driller's mud called bentonite, which holds a lot of water, so that you're able to have a mud that's quite viscous and doesn't clog up.

It's a sculpture that makes everybody happy. Don't know why the mud does, but somehow you watch Mud Muse and it just makes you happy.

Robert Rauschenberg with engineers Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank LaHaye, Jim Wilkinson. Mud Muse, 1968–71. Bentonite mixed with water in aluminum-and-glass vat, with sound-activated compressed-air system and control console. Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Gift of the New York Collection
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