Odd bird

Talkin’ BoomCases and expanding foam with Mr. Odbert

The artist in one of his environments.

The artist in one of his environments.

photo courtesy of dominic francisco odbert

Dominic Francisco Odbert’s Petting Zoo at 1078 Gallery Jan. 13-Feb. 5. Opening reception Saturday, Jan. 15, 5-7 p.m.—see the artist, and hear acoustic music by Rob Wilson.
1078 Gallery
820 Broadway

1078 Gallery

820 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-1973

Dominic Francisco Odbert—aka Mr. SiMo—makes quirky art, electronic music and a popular piece of sound equipment called a BoomCase.

As Odbert describes it on his website (www.mrsimo.com), the BoomCase is a “Self-powered portable suitcase stereo system that works with your iPod/iPhone or any device with a headphone plug. The BoomCase will last eight-plus hours on a single charge (charger built in). In addition to running on batteries, the BoomCase can also be plugged in when the party goes inside.”

Odbert’s BoomCase—available in many sizes, styles and colors—has become such a commercial success over the past four months that it threatens to overshadow his other art, which includes an upcoming installation, Petting Zoo, at 1078 Gallery, that opens Jan. 13. The funky BoomCase has been touted of late by media worldwide, including Rolling Stone magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Las Vegas Weekly, an Austrian lifestyle magazine called A La Carte and Estonia’s Diivan magazine.

“I actually deferred school because of it,” the 26-year-old Odbert said of the BoomCase in a recent phone interview from his home in Sacramento. He and his brother were busy all Christmas season turning out order after order for the vintage-suitcases-turned-sound-systems for customers around the globe after Odbert quit school just to meet the crazy demand. “That’s why I’m back in Sacramento. I had just started grad school in St. Louis in August.

“I wasn’t really planning to sell them,” he said, in a laid-back voice and manner very much like that of the character of Ed Chigliak from the early ’90s television series Northern Exposure. But last fall, he said, someone from female-focused tech website chipchick.com found his website and blogged about the BoomCase. Next thing he knew, the BoomCase was featured on engadget.com, gizmodo.com, uncrate.com, thrillist.com, etc., etc., etc.

An unwilling celebrity? “Yeah, basically,” he said dryly.

His photographic self-portrait—a blurred-out version of him sitting in a corner of one of his eccentric installations—speaks of a desire for anonymity-of-sorts.

Even his pseudonym, Mr. SiMo, is derived from mystery. The real Simo is a Yugoslavian cousin of his (Odbert is one-fourth Yugoslavian) whom “no one’s really heard from in a long time. [The name] is kind of an ode to him.”

As for his 1078 exhibit, Odbert explained: “I am going to be building a structure in the middle of the gallery made out of wood and rubber, and expanding foam. But I’m actually making it—the foam. I got the two chemicals. They sell it in bulk—the two parts; you just mix it up and it expands.” He said it’s the same foam injected into boat hulls to make them float.

Gallery-goers will be able to enter the structure, which will extend along the floor of the gallery and up the north wall. Two videos will be shown inside the structure on a continuous loop—“treebeast,” by Odbert’s Scottish friend Neil Scott, and his own, odd “Maker” (“If you look at it long enough, you’ll see pigs,” he said).

Two of the artist’s custom-made BoomCases.

Photos courtesy of dominic francisco odbert

Inside the structure will also be “these weird animals I created,” Odbert said. “I don’t know how many at this point. I made one large one, kinda the size of a dog. And I made these miniature ones that are a whole different creature. They don’t look like the big one.”

The animals are made of “really thin metal” covered with foam. “They are smooth-textured; they kinda look plastered, but it’s foam,” he stressed. “It looks totally different than you’d expect.”

Will there be a BoomCase anywhere at the show?

“I’ll probably have one there during the installation.”

Will he bring one to the opening reception?

“I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know.”