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February 28, 2009

Equipment, Passwords & Resources

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February 24, 2009

Concert 6: Ray Lee's Siren

Unfortunately, I was a little bit disappointed by this performance. I suppose I did have some high expectations for a sculpture made with sound, but even though I had never experienced something quite like that before, it didn't really feel new to me. The performance started out very mysteriously as we were all led into a large black room full of silver tripods. Each tripod had a pole with a speaker on each end mounted on it. They were arranged in different heights throughout the room with space to walk around and through them. There was already a low bass sound moving through the room and as soon as we were all inside, they shut the doors. The artist and another man were present and they were wearing thick gray suits (which I later learned were made from felt because of the way the material absorbs sound instead of deflecting it) They began by going to each of the speakers and turning them on. They also tuned each one, which felt to me like it was more for show than actual necessity since there had been another performance right before the one I was in. Once all of the sirens were on and spinning slowly, people began wandering about the room. The performance carried on this way pretty steadily for what seemed like a long time. Each person had to make it interesting for themselves by experiencing the sound in different locations and seeing how it was different if you moved around. That aspect made it much more like a sculpture than a concert since a sculpture tends to require much more active interest than a typical concert where the audience can sit passively and expect the musicians to entertain them without much effort on their own part. I got the most out of the experience when I closed my eyes because then I was able to feel the shape that the sound made. The spinning sirens seemed to create a boundary, or an outline and it was almost like different areas even had different textures. Eventually, all of the lights were turned off and we were left with the tiny red lights on each of the speakers, spinning around each other, evoking the feeling of fireflies or a planetarium. Eventually the lights were turned back on, the speakers gradually stopped spinning, and the sound faded. Afterwards, I felt like it could have been more than it was. I'm not exactly sure why, but I was left with feelings of blankness and spaciousness. My final impression was that it was created around the idea of a sculpture made of sound.

Ray Lee's Siren

Last Thursday I went to see one of the showings of Siren at the Walker. I thought this piece was really phenomenal. It was one of the most succesful pieces of experimental sound art that I have ever seen. I really had no prior expectations of this piece having not read any synopsis prior to the performance. I entered the performance space intrigued by the instructions given to us before hand. "Walk around during the piece, do not touch the machines, and no talking". When I walked in I felt the performance had already begun, I looked around at all the people, wandering, getting situated, ready to embark on any journey that would be thrown at us, and the two men standing very still inside the no touch zone. What I noticed after looking for quite a while at the "performers" was that they were dressed in matching suits with matching shoes, the suits appeared to be made of felt or something similar. This of course recalled Joseph Beuys and his obsession with felt and his own felt suit. When the noises began I examined the movements of the men very carefully, as they walked up to each tri-pod like machine and turned them by twisting a small screwdriver in the center, which was also used to adjust pitch. When the pitch seemed to have reached its correct destination one man would give the other a little nod. This was intriguing to me, because as an audience member I did not get let in on the secret to the machines, or the secret mapping of the pitches, how spontaneous and how precise were there actions? As they turned on one whiny machine after the other, which I got the impression came from actual sirens themselves, I walked around the space observing the shifting tones and harmonies that were created. Each area of the space, and each angle presented a new sound. After all the machines were on, then began the next phase and another total transformation of the piece, the spinning. Atop the tripods were the sirens attached to metal rods, and made to spin in circles like helicopter propellers. The sound in the room became symphonic, like an orchetra of siren sounds. Again walking around I searched for the spaces, and combinations of sound which produced the most pleasing harmonies for me, but afraid of enjoying the sound too much (performance art is often supposed to make you uncomfortable right?) I would move around, migrating toward to lower tones. It was very eerie and magical. This piece was in constant transformation, and after some time the lights were shut off, leaving us all in the dark with only the small red LEDs orbiting their centers at different heights thoughout the room. I thought it was a really mesmerizing performance in all, I walked about with closing my eyes from time to time feeling magical and full from all the noises, wondering if anyone outside the space could hear this as well. The simplicity of the forms of the machines, and the lights and sounds really made this piece work for me. I was left with questions about the mechanics and the process, but the answers I doubt I would understand.

Spark Festival Concert 5

This was the first of the Spark Festival events which I attended, and one of the more traditional performances that I at the festival. There were five seperate "performances" at this concert ranging from prerecorded sound to live musical performance to animation. It was a short concert in all, only lasting about 45 minutes. I'm going to focus specifically on the performance which sparked the most interest for me. It was the first performance, so maybe my interest in it had something to do with my attention span that day, but thinking about it now I still think it was the most unique and interesting of the five, the piece was Clifton Callender's "Metamorphoses". In many respects this performance was very traditional, in the setup and the actions. The performer (Callender) mounted the stage, wearing a suit, spotlit, sat down with his cello and began to play. I sat comfortably in my chair awaiting some melodious sounds. The performance actually incorporated three cello sounds, two recorded and one played live by Callender. The music of the three cellos shifted through different tempos seperately from one another, slipping in and out of synchronization while all playing the exact same music. The shifts were subtle, but like a lot of sound art the changes are felt within your body as the waves of sound surround you. The formal presentation of this piece allowed me as an audience member to focus all of my attention on the sounds without being distracted by any other disruptive elements. The sounds produced by such a simple act were really phenomenal. I have found that with a lot of work that I have witnessed the simplest twists and variations can often be to most interesting or moving.

This was the piece that really struck me the most upon seeing it, or hearing it I should say. Another piece within the performance which I enjoyed was one by Philip Blackburn, called "Car Squawk". This was a sound piece, no physical presence was made by the artist besides at the very end of the performance, which I feel is worth mentioning, a man from the audience stood too take a bow from his place. During this sound piece which had no intro but just began out of no where, one heard a panoply of sound effects made by the human mouth, all simulating car noises. More specifically dying car noises. It was very humorous to listen too, and really didn't require any visual or physical presence to understand the joke or to feel the way you relate to those experiences. Car trouble is a universal problem, something we can all joke about or at least understand.

February 23, 2009

Spark Fest Concert number 12

I was hoping to find more meaning in the performances I saw in Concert 12 as I did the previous day. But unfortunately they didn't move me as thoroughly. Therefor I will write about two of them instead of all of them. I exhausted my creative writing abilities in my last entry. Therefor I'm going to keep this more brief.
I found the first performance of this event to be a little bit underdeveloped and predictable, which is not to say that it was unprofessional. It most certainly was that. And it was enjoyable too. The performance consisted of a women playing her flute with synthesized computer music she played along with. It was apparent that there was supposed to be a playful kind of struggle between the performer and the prerecording she played with. I read in the pamphlet that the piece was inspired by the tv show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Which I find to be an interesting idea; making a musical reaction piece to a tv show, or movie. However, I found her flute/computer piece to be an hoaky as the show it was inspired by. However, one aspect I really appreciated about the piece was that she had amazing energy both in the way she played it, came on and went of stage, and the energy pulsing through her body throughout the duration of the performance. When I witness a performance that I dont necessarily connect with strongly, I really always appreciate when the performer(s) are fully engaged and energized by what they are doing.
Another performance that I found interesting at the Concert was this piece were two young guys entered the stage. One east Indian, carrying an East Indian Instrument that I have only seen in two dimensional artwork. The other was a white american guy toting a macintosh lap top. I liked that juxtaposition right there. They sat on the stage floor with about a 3 foot space between them. The music they composed together was a kind of conversation between Eastern and Western music. I thought it was interesting, and successful. I found it meditative actually. I recalled Patrick's piece he shared with us last week on wednesday with the prayer wheel and the madonna record and the space between them representing his desire to meld west with east. I saw the space between the two performers in this piece to be much less voided than the space in Patrick's piece. I wished he was there to see it, because I think he could take something from it to redo his piece. I love and hate the idea that any art piece you don't witness could contain an element that would make one of your own pieces better.

Spark Fest Concerto 13

I went to the Tedd Mann Concert Hall Saturday night for another spark experience, expecting a much stuffier, avante show. I have to say, it is very strange to mix the usherlords of Tedd with the experimental, no-rules-no-mercy spark culture. It was an interesting audience display of the precarious balance between not riding a high horse with a stick up your butt, and not being incredibly disrespectful. I guess its one of those consequences of fine art meeting a sort of subversive subcultural feel.
Concert: Another piano player hooked up to a googlemachine, testing it and the audience's patience. Another Saxaphone player playing to a video, this one either was incredibly masterfully performed or the player was actually manipulating the video a little bit with his sound and movement. He sure gesticulated a lot.

DANCE: Wow! I was so happy to see some dude with a deer mask crawl on stage. Finally. A full -blown performance, multiple dancers, enough "narrative" sense for me to start making meaning, two awesome old men dancing what can only be called "the crazy spider dance" captivating, playing with expectations, not offering explanations. It was visually beautiful, set to a soundtrack of strange, borderline disturbing and irreverant/irrelevant recorded sounds interspersed with silence, allowing us to hear the sound of the dancer's flesh thud against the floor, breaking the 4th wall as I become aware that the artist is aware she is a dancer, dancing to a broken sound track, not an agent in some imaginary world of nonsense.
Personally, I interpreted it like this: So there was nature, and it was good and slow, and then the Native Americans came and danced all organical and in tune with nature, and then BOOM came the white man, and he was a crazy spider machine destroying, harvesting, attacking the light. Then there were a lot of farts and CO2 emissions, and the world ended. And then there was only dancing, angels slamming out smooth beats and sleeves but no pant legs.

-Kyle J

Spark Fest Concert 12

Wow so I was a little disappointed with my first Spark Fest experience. I went to the CCC for an afternoon concert, expecting electric music and performance. What I got was technically that. The first two performances were basicly instrumentals being fed into some computer machine, the result being some very subtle and some very obvious electronic distortion/reinterpretation of the sounds. I spent most of the first three performances just trying to figure out how it "worked" (e.g. was the electronic sound live? were there more than one program? what caused what?) I think this was mainly because the music itself didn't really appeal to me as more than sound. Theka may have been nice as a CD track to zone out to. disLocations was a man playing saxaphone to a video of a saxaphone being put together in the middle of the woods. Again, I was trying to figure out, or wishing, that the live music was manipulating the video. Alas, the performances seemed more exihibitions of the capabilities of the computer machines, and less "music". That being said, it seemed evident the performers were very well trained musicians first, composers, and live art performers third. The fourth performance was canceled, I had to wonder if the announcement of its cancelation "due to circumstances beyond our control" was indeed the performance. (I doubt it, but again a neat idea!). The fifth piece I did actually enjoy. It was a prerecorded piece that immediately made me think of some sort of spaceship, a soundtrack to some sci-fi movie or something. Best of all, it was delivered expertly in surround sound, I felt the track created a very real "space" around me by moving different sounds around the room (instead of just blaring out of the stage speakers). If I ever get a spaceship, I will have that track on my ipod.

-Kyle J

February 22, 2009

Concert 9, Sprak Festival (02.20.2009)

Spark Festival; concert number 9.
I feel like its going to be hard to blog about these performances if no one else experienced them. But I’ll try to make it relatively painless and go through each one one at a time and give my thoughts.
And Death… Jason Bolte
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; The most beautiful and terrifying thing I’ve ever heard
It was a sound piece based on Dylan Thomas’s poem And Death Shall have no dominion. Of the sounds I could identify (among them seagulls, flames crackeling in a blazing fire, rhythm, a train screeching on its hot tracks)I found the most interesting aspect of this piece to be the way the sounds were stung together and layered to reflect the inspiration the artist derived from Dylan Thomas’s poem. I looked the poem up and read it after the performance. I feel this work did more than justice to it, it made it better. It made its meaning have a new level. I like that idea of taking someone else’s piece and making your own piece out of it. We all just sat there in the dark marveling at the pieces unsuppressed beauty.

Sweep Doug Geers
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; Fucking Brilliant
The piece consisted of a violinist, a South American percussionist using very beautiful, very tribal looking and sounding percussion instruments, and this is the best part. An assembly of young men standing with laptops at their feet playing synthesized music on……. Wait for it……. Wait for it……… Wiimotes. The violist commenced the piece with a sort cabinet of dr. caligariesc solo. Her solo alone had a lot of drama and grace and when the wiimotes and percussion joined in, the drama in the piece was heighten. The piece explored motion in a variety of different ways. The violist was the most mobil member of the ensemble making very organic sweeping motions while the Wiiists were confined to their station and their sweeping motion was much more digitalized. The percussionist looked like he was enjoying himself the most, he had a very carefree way of playing and expression on his face. The actual product of the piece was very refreshing. I loved the innovation and variation of both music and electronics as well as motion within the piece.

Liminal Surface David Btihell and Ali Momeni
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; Retarded in the worst way
This pieced really got under my skin for a lot of reasons. First of all it was set up without regard to the audience’s field of vision. I’ll try to paint a mental picture for you; In the center of the stage was a small square table with the two performers profiled to the audience. There was a small screen just in back of them. Which was blank at all times except a few dull moments of prerecorded footage of one of the actors holding a small block looked at it, terrified in the background. Then, on the large screen in back of them, there was s projection of what they were doing on the small table, which was, making percussive sounds with small blocks and symbols. People, let this description of this performance be a lesson to you; too many moving components in a piece can destroy the piece!! I think it could have been pretty cool actually, but I couldn’t even really see what was going on because of the small screen projecting nothing most of the time! The way it was set up was retarded in the worst of ways. But the truly worst part about this performance was that one of the performers had a smug little smirk on his face the whole damn time. I had the urge to get out of my chair, walk up to the bastard and slap that shit eating grin under the guise of a smirk of his face!

Some things about my body and moving large piles of sand Patrick Holbrook
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; Retarded in the best way
The artists used dual images in a lot of his work that we saw on Wednesday when he visited our class. This film was a split screen. On the bottom there was a single shot image of a large barge moving slowly down a canal carrying several large piles of sand. On the top screen was shots of Patrick doing things with his body (such as pushing his nose down to meet his upper lip, taking his shirt of and putting it back on 3 times, and my personal favorite pointing to his hair on his head, then on his beard and holding up two separate piles of hair on a piece of white printer paper. I loved this piece, although I don’t know why still. I don’t know why I have such a strong positive reaction to his work. I think part of it is because it’s funny. I see a lot of art that makes me chuckle in a smug way that’s like “haha that’s funny cuz I’m smart I get it.” But his work tends to be funny in a way that actually makes me laugh out loud like I’m watching The Family Guy or something. I also think his work is also very distinct to our culture. Even though I think its possible that he’s trying to bridge a gap between cultures in a lot of his work, I can’t help but think that this piece would have a whole other meaning than the one I experienced if people were viewing it in say, China. Now I feel like I’m kind of contradicting myself though because he deals with some pretty specific political events in our country which we saw in his work, and he works with cultural memory so much too, which is definitely culturally specific to us, maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to it then, because I feel so connected to it….. and because it makes me laugh. Like just now, I realized that he and I have a common view point on some things. When I set out to write about these performances this afternoon, I thought of it as I am performing, it never crossed my mind that I could be doing anything but performing right now. Which is a parallel thought to what he said about how we’re actually performing interactively with the internet and the larger world when we are online. Wow, I better get on with the next performance before I alienate everyone reading this.

Ritual #2 Zac Crockett
I don’t have a made up title for this one, cuz I like the original one, and cuz it makes me laugh giggle inside every time I read, say or hear the words “number” and “two” in that order… hehe, see, I told you I love the family guy.
This piece was about meaning. How we as cultures and as individuals construct meaning. The piece itself was very beautiful, and so was a meaning, i.e. meaning.
Ok, thanks for hanging with me until the end here folks.

February 20, 2009

Spark Festival event response.

My original intention had been to go see the free screening of Siren tonite at the Walker, which I was pretty anxious to see after reading a couple articles and reviews of it and being intrigued by the idea of “sound sculptures”. But both the Walker website and the City Pages claimed that the Thursday performance was “sold-out”(which I was confused about because it was supposedly a free event) and I have to work both Friday and Saturday night so I couldn’t go then. Anyway, as an alternative I decided to attend the Sparks festival matinee performance at the Cedar Cultural Center today. There was a series of short pieces, two of which I will talk about.
The first piece, Metamorphoses featured an extraordinarily skilled celloist alone on the stage with nothing but a cello and a “stomp-box” sort of delay pedal contraption. His piece was an experiment in delay-effects produced by a pick-up under the bridge of his cello that attached to an amplifier which was also hooked up to what looked like more than one laptop in the back of the room. He played his cello in real-time, which was recorded onto the laptops and simultaneously played back with varying tempos of delay. The lag-time of the delay(the two recorded “echo” cellos, I will call them) would either “ritardando” or “accelerando” throughout the song, and at some points would even catch up to the real-time cello being played and play in unison with it, only to slowly ritardando and become more and more delayed. There wasn’t much happening visually on the stage, so I spent most of the time with my eyes closed focusing on the dynamics of the cello and the echo-cellos.
The other piece that stood out to me was a video-art piece by Olga Mink, entitled Reis door Brabant-stad. It started out with what looked like black & white cut-and-paste still images of people walking on a blank white screen. It started with one figure and then another was added until several people had accumulated on the still white background. Buildings, streets, trees, streetsigns, in the same black & white cut-out style were added one by one. Eventually things started to be cut out one, leaving shapes of white negative space, as new people and archticture were simultaneously added. This went on for several minutes. Suddenly there was a shift into color photographs, arranged in a rapid stop-motion style, from the perspective of a person walking through some European city(I’m not sure which” looking up at the buildings and signs). The entire video had a musical score of electronic clicks and static (very delicate sort of computer-generated beats), synthesized bass, all orchestrated into a very intricately rythmic composition that complimented the video/camera images. As the music built rythem and momentum, the frames of the stop-motion video would coincide with it, until both were at a very frantic almost head-ache inducing flashing pace. The editing of this video was some of the most impressive I’ve seen.

February 13, 2009

Due: Monday February, 16 - In the Space of Duration

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Due: Monday February, 16 - Durational Performance

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What's Due? Check the Flow Chart.

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February 9, 2009

AIN GORDON - FROM TEXT TO LIVE ART

On Monday, February 09 & Wednesday, February 11 Ain Gordon will be in the Performance Art & Installation class to do an intensive workshop with students titled, FROM TEXT TO LIVE ART.

February 7, 2009

Faust- Charles Gounoud -MN Opera - Lynn Lukkas

Though this performance was not on the list I decided to write about it anyway.

Faust, if you are not aware of the legend, is the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil and is, in the end, well, .... The German legend tells of Dr. Faust or Faustus, a man who longed to know the true meaning of happiness. Thinking his moment of pure happiness would never come he makes a deal with Mephistopheles (the Devil). The wager is, if Mephistopheles is able to deliver Faust true happiness Mephistopheles will claim his soul.

Mephistopheles leads Faust through experiences that culminate in a lustful and destructive relationship with an innocent and nubile woman named Gretchen. Gretchen and her family are destroyed by Mephistopheles' deceptions and Faust's desires and actions. The story ends in tragedy as Gretchen kills Faust's child she bore out of wedlock and Faust is left in shame.

The singing was beautiful with the most powerful voice that of Mephistopheles, a rich and dramatic baritone who convinced this audience member that, were there a devil, he his voice would be as lush and seductive as his. Though talented, the leads seems to have a less engaging and less dramatic emotive vocal qualities. The staging was exceptional as was the costuming.

The most powerful aspect of the performance was the inclusion of the Doug Verone Dancers in the production. They were supurb and added a visceral material to the production that only moving bodies can do. Verone's stage direction was also supurb as he deftly created an seamless and elegant pastiche movement, acting and singing.

The run has passed now -- but the story is definitely worth research and adaptation to contemporary contexts!

February 3, 2009

In The Beginning Was The Word - as seen and blogged by Laura Lechner

“You are incredibly similar to all the people sitting around you right now. The vast majority of them are doomed to a life of disappointing mediocrity just like yours" from Young Jean Lee's Church

What is the role of the audience in live performance? This is a question that I have been struggling with as of late, and while YJL's Church didn't necessarily provide me with a definitive answer (is there a definitive answer?), it was primarily through my interaction with, and my participation as a member of the audience that I was able to engage with the performance. The experience from the other side of the performer/audience member relationship solidified for me the importance of the energy that bodies in space will undoubtedly generate, and how this energy is indispensable to Live Art. From Rev. José's first sermon, in which he denounced us (the audience - we had become a collective unit upon entering the theatre and sitting down in our seats, agreeing to the social contract between performer and spectator) as a "vast majority . . . doomed to a life of disappointing mediocrity," until the choir finished it's big number, the discomfort of the audience was palpable. People were laughing, but not from a place of genuine mirth, but instead out of (or so I perceived) defensiveness. The reverends were attacking us - our middle-class values, our ideas of culture and art, our self-satisfactions and self-doubts. But instead of internalizing these attacks, or responding in a more constructive way, people laughed. The joke's not on us, we seemed to be saying, the joke is on these Christians. These religious freaks. These easy targets for mockery and ridicule. I think we were wrong. We sat in the houselights, equal participants in the service, but unable to truly receive the Word.

I don't know what the Word is. But we the audience were not in a receptive mood. We're not in a church, we said each time we giggled nervously, we are playing at church. The performance continually brought to light issues of realness, of sincerity versus irony, of truthfulness. We didn't want to be the dumb ones, the ones who didn't get that the whole thing was a send-up. So we laughed at what we thought were the punch-lines. We laughed when we should have listened.

Have you heard the Word?

Laura

good news! god is love! -- stan dukich

The aspect I find most enchanting with Church is Young Jean Lee’s attempt at pointing out the notion of art as religion. The idea of solely relying on one’s trips to the gallery, as a way of connecting to the environment, is constantly examined by the four performing reverends. “THAT’S NOT ENOUGH!? the piece keeps preaching. YJL draws parallels between the church institution and the art institution by pointing out their similar functions. Both institutions seek to create a community of people needing a product – a product that gives us the illusion that we are all sentient, and we have completed our civic duty en route to the Dairy Queen. The church institution will save your soul and the art institution will save your aesthetic – of course, you’ve got to give them both some money first. By placing the performance in a church setting, and by paying great attention to the divisions the church space is quick to create (stage/audience, active bodies/passive bodies, etc), YJL further exposes our desire to passively consume art -- and the institutionalized consecration of its civilizing function -- as we would fast food hamburgers or television sit-coms. YJL does not offer us with an answer of what art is, or the function it should perform because that would be oddly counter-intuitive and dogmatic in relation to the ideas she proposes. Rather, I think we come away with the sense that watching performance art and thinking about it in our safe, insular homes, is not enough if we are to understand and celebrate the suffering that unites our celestial sphere. We must leave the pew, and the art galleries, and decide to act.

February 2, 2009

Lynn in 2003

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February 1, 2009

Kate Dorrough - Church, Young Jean Lee

I was less inspired by the performance, but I thought there were some elements that made an impression on me throughout the viewing experience and after the theatrical experience. This performance combined different approaches to Christian services. The set had three simple pieces: 2 benches and a pulpit/podium, all made out of wood. This set reminded me of minimalist Protestant churches. The content of the sermons surpassed conservative approaches of the Protestant church. Towards the end of "Church" there was a dance performance that reminded me of non-denominational churches that use contemporary Christian pop music. The performance ended with a Gospel choir. The mix of these approaches and elements seems to suggest that none of the approaches are right or wrong, but a means for people to communicate the best way they know how with their fellow man or G-d.

The opening of the piece, with all the lights out, and the man telling everyone that all of us are self-centered and perform futile actions was satiric in tone, but possessed the message of most "sermonizers" who tell everyone that there sinners.It was an interesting choice to start in the dark, almost as if to provoke the audience to reflect or not and feel their sin.

The light designer did an effective job of creating the feel of a church service, besides the performers because the lights were on the audience the majority of the time. It made many audience members uncomfortable and I could tell they felt extremely vulnerable. Like Angie said, there tone was satirical and irreverent. Some people were laughing not because of the funny sermons, but because of the "brutal truth".

I find it humorous that all the attendees gave to the "Church" fund. Almost as if the ticket price was really an action of tithing.

Overall, I felt as though Lee was attempting to turn the idea or the ritual of a church service on its head, but the attempts were so subtle that I did not find them effective. It felt like the piece was incomplete. But Reverend Jose said that we would forget everything they said once we had left. Perhaps it was a mere illusion, a representation of a copy of a copy that need be an altering event.