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Mark Jeffery, 39

SAIC prof homes in on sounds of the city.

Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

Union Station

Your coat has me wondering: hipster or homeless? This is actually Vivienne Westwood, a Filene’s Basement find from five years ago. This guy on the street the other day was like, “What are you wearing this for? You’re crazy!”

What are you up to? I’m an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute, and I’m here with one of my core studio classes. Today, we’re exploring sound. I’m having them notate how the walls echo. Later, they’ll record the sounds. The finished product could be many different things: a pure sound piece, a performance sound piece, a video work in which they incorporate audio.

Sound-wise, what’s one of the more interesting places in Chicago? Probably the Botanic Gardens. It’s funny because you don’t necessarily think of sound in a space like that, but I really like it because it feels like everything is so shut off. Your perception of your hearing completely changes. Like here in the Great Hall—you realize that buildings like this were built as palaces! You don’t get buildings like this anymore. The history here is so rich. By comparison, the Ogilvie station is bizarrely sort of ’80s. You suddenly feel like you’re in a Daryl Hannah film. [Laughs]

What’s the most out-there thing you’ve done in the name of art? Seventeen years ago, I was working a lot with milk. My father was a British farmer, and you realize you start to mine your history. In a gallery, I submerged myself in this beautiful concrete pool of milk. That was pretty wild.