Misfits and Hooligans Interview: Veronika Krausas

26 Apr

The third in our series of interviews with artists leading up to the Misfits and Hooligans concert at Beyond Baroque on April 28, we talk to composer, producer, and Catalysis Projects Core Artist Veronika Krausas.

Can you tell us a bit about your work that’s being presented on the concert?

I’ve got two pieces on the program – one a little older and one a little newer.  Let’s say the older one is the hooligan work.  It’s my double bass trio called Gardens of Stone.    This piece was inspired by a poem by the Canadian writer André Alexis:

 out of silence, to another silence

 from sun and water, dry white salt.

time moves like that, crest to crest,

and our selves, yours and mine,

are what is left from sea …

 I had a series of works that used texts around stones by Alexis.  Some of them had the text read, some sung, and in this piece it’s simply the inspiration seed.  I wrote it after hearing the marvelous bassist Stefano Scodanibbio perform at Darmstadt.  I was enthralled with the range of sounds that he was able to achieve.   My work can be amplified but for Saturday’s concert it’ll be acoustic since it’s such a small space, the real estate is at a premium!

The second work – my misfit piece – is Jonas for solo harmonica.   The supreme master of the harmonica, Bill Barrett, asked me to write a solo work for him a few years ago.  It’s finally getting its première this weekend.  The structure of the piece is 8 phrases, each ending in exactly the same, definitive way.  Along with the piece is a great text and film by Quintan Ana Wikswo called The Anguillidae Eater.

The text is about the migration of eels to the Coronian Spit in Lithuania (which is one of my favorite places in the world) with a surreal twist.

Curonian spit - Lithuania

Here’s what Quintan says of the work:

The Anguilladae Eaters inhabits an obscure spot upon the earth – a tiny spit of land in the Baltic Sea where ancient and ferocious female deities are still known to roam. Over the centuries, their alchemical, cryptic seaside has been invaded by Vikings, Russians, Catholics, Nazis – each wanting to plunder, subdue and control this disconcertingly female ensorcelled slice of earth. Yet there are pilgrims, too – the Anguilladae eels journey ten long years from the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean, just to mate in these icy, enchanted waters. And they’re not alone. All manner of travelers are drawn here, even today, where these deities remain with powers far stronger and more fierce with age. Travelers today find themselves unsettled: are the local women truly women? Or are they themselves the cryptic eel goddesses – immortals in mundane disguise? Were the eggs at breakfast enchanted? Taken not from chickens, but from the plundered nest of an eel queen, stalking high along the dunes?

The images in her film are of eggs and the sea and the sand and an eel rake!

eel rake

It goes perfectly with the harmonica music.  The piece is named after my grandfather Jonas, who loved harmonica and smoked eel and was Lithuanian.  He was probably more of a friendly hooligan that a misfit.  I still have his harmonica in my studio.

Do you consider yourself a hooligan or a misfit? Or both? Or neither?

 

I’m a misfit but really my goal is to be a hooligan … it’s one of those things that I’m working on.  The definition of hooligan really depends on which country you hail from because in the lands that enjoy soccer (aka as non-American football), a hooligan might have a slightly less savory connotation than a hooligan in my less aggressive-less violent-more mischievous-Edward Gorey-esque usage of the term.

 

Edward Gorey

Tell us about the most memorable oddball instrument you’ve ever encountered.

 

I’ve always been perplexed with the ondes martenot.  The effects of the instrument are fantastic in Messiaen’s music and in the hands of a great performer, like Cynthnia Millar, it’s exquisite, but the method of performing on it has always messed with my brain.

I remember once hearing a bagpipe in a closed room – that was memorable.

I remember once seeing and hearing someone play on an amplified toothbrush – that was oddball.

And of course, there are those moments where all of a sudden you forget how to spell was or for a split second something that is habitual becomes an unknown action.  Sometimes, very rarely actually, I’ll be sitting at the piano and I’ll see myself from the outside, as if an alien watching who has no idea what a piano is, and think, this is strange – sitting at a table and hitting it with my fingers!  I guess that’s more just oddball rather than an instrument really.

 

Misfits and Hooligans Interview: Tom Flaherty and Quintan Ana Wikswo

25 Apr

In the second in our series of interviews with artists leading up to the Misfits and Hooligans concert on April 28 at Beyond Baroque, we talk to interdisciplinary filmmaker/visual artist/writer  (and Catalysis Projects Core Artist) Quintan Ana Wikswo, and composer Tom Flaherty.

     

Can you tell us a bit about your work that’s being presented on the 28th?

TF: “Shepard’s Pi” a piece that explores weird sonic characteristics of the toy piano, whose lowest notes can sound higher than its highest notes. The live toy piano is accompanied by electronic transmogrifications of itself, and the player gets to dance with a funhouse mirror of his or her playing.

QW: I have two new pieces on the 28th – one is a collaboration with Veronika Krausas: her music JONAS with my poem cycle and 35mm film suite, called THE ANGUILLADAE EATERS. The second piece is my film projection APIMANIAS, which I created to go alongside Aron Kallay’s phenomenal toy piano performance of Tom Flaherty’s equally-phenomenal and intriguing SHEPARD’S PI.

film still, APIMANIAS by Quintan Ana Wikswo. 35mm film. 9 minutes. 2012.

TF: Named after cognitive psychologist Roger Shepard, a Shepard scale is an audio illusion in which a scale seems to rise endlessly, without getting higher. The constituent pitches consist of several simultaneous octaves, which fade out at the top of the scale and fade in at the bottom. Taken out of the moving context, the actual octave register of a note is ambiguous to the ear. A toy piano displays similar ambiguity: as the length of the sounding rods at lowest keys is too short to produce a true bass note, its overtones are louder than its fundamental pitch. Taken out of context the lowest F can sound more like its C overtone, an octave and a fifth higher. This ambiguity is part of the charm of the toy piano, and Shepard’s Pi enjoys playing with that charm, with lots of scales that seem not to get higher, sonorities whose octave register is ambiguous, and moments where the meter and tempo could be heard in several different ways.

Oh yes, pi. Just as pi = 3.14159265. . ., so too Shepard’s Pihas slightly more than three electronically produced sounds (all derived from the sound of the toy piano), sections, and tempi.

QW: When I first encountered Tom Flaherty’s “Shepard’s Pi,” the word “apimanias” began spiraling through my mind alongside the music. I find the musical work quite charming and endearing – it suggests an obsessive, insistent structural precision, a kind of auditory engineering that is similar to the unrelenting, exciting din of skyscraper construction – something rising, and yet never seeming to finish. Admirable, and inexorable, it’s the din of highly controlled creation. I immediately thought of bees. The preoccupying, intrusive, dominating and yet subtly complex sound of their wings spiraling in circles of flight – annoying, but breathtaking, and also quite gorgeous. As I read the score of Tom’s piece, the carefully nested progression of concentric octaves somehow echoed the precise mathematics bees use to build the structure of their hive. The Greek mathematician Archimedes approximated Pi by inscribing a hexagon into a circle: that is at the heart of bee geometry as well – their honeycomb is a mass of hexagonal wax cells that contain their larvae, honey and pollen. And dreams. The word Apimanias means “an excessive interest in bees.” And hidden within the word Apimanias is another word: pi.

While I was working on my B/ee-Movie, I became obsessed by the posture of the bees – their hunched backs bent down intently over their mathematical task. This ominous, slightly maniacal physical shape that suggests obsession and inexorable focus. During this time, I saw a video of Tom’s piece in performance and recognized an uncanny similarity between the bees and the toy piano player – both hump-backed and crouched, singlemindedly constructing geometry within a creation device…I suspect the honeycomb and the piano may serve the same function for two different species. Or perhaps, not so different species. I know pianists have very good posture, especially Aron.

film still, APIMANIAS by Quintan Ana Wikswo. 35mm film. 9 minutes. 2012.

Do you consider yourself a hooligan or a misfit? Or both? Or neither?

TW: Definitely misfit. That used to be a requirement for admission to the Composer’s Union, though they may have relaxed their standards in recent years.
Perhaps hooligan, to my students.
film still, APIMANIAS by Quintan Ana Wikswo. 35mm film. 9 minutes. 2012.

film still, APIMANIAS by Quintan Ana Wikswo. 35mm film. 9 minutes. 2012.

QW: I am probably mostly like a bee: both a misfit and a hooligan. Currently, there is an astonishingly large, obnoxious and ungainly wood-boring bee attempting to drill through the wall of my studio. At first, I thought it was a lawnmower. All that trouble from just a little fellow. There is a punk quality to its uncaring response to being in the way, being noisy and obstreperous, and generally being just not much of a joy to have around…but it’s just being a bee. And honestly, there’s also something quite silly about them in their ridiculous fuzzy carapace and ungainly wings and their sentimental affection for overwrought flowers. Yet nevertheless, bees can kill people. Lots of people are terrified of all sorts of bees – perhaps because they’re also very unpredictable. One never knows if a bee will kill somebody – they’re just as likely to land on your fingertip and slurp up a bit of tasty sweat as to put one into the grave.

But getting back to your question – it’s just the bee’s nature to drill and buzz and annoy and terrify and make life happen, and pollinate, and cross-polinate, and create. They are the best sorts of misfits and hooligans.

As far as new music, I think that Saturday’s concert – and new music in general – won my heart a long time ago with its ability to be the bee…to cause shock and horror, discomfort, and make enemies without even trying – but also to be a bit silly and ungainly, and wobbly and fragile and peculiar. Invariably someone seems to walk out of a concert once they realize the violin in never going to sound like Debussy. They seem partly ashamed of themselves – as if they know they must be missing something – but also betrayed by their friend, the obedient violin. So much new music invariably horrifies unsuspecting audience members who want to expect the expected. And that’s really quite thrilling to be within.

film still, APIMANIAS by Quintan Ana Wikswo. 35mm film. 9 minutes. 2012.

Tell us about the most memorable oddball instrument you’ve ever encountered.

TF: There was a vegetable orchestra in Vienna a couple or years ago. That’s got to rank pretty high on the list. But clearly this question deserves greater thought.

QW: I grew up in the Cumberland Valley of Tennessee way out in the country, and my brother played dulcimer at Appalachian and mountain music jamborees. Jamborees are a glorious experience in making a lot of something from nothing. And for truly transcendent expression to come from the least likely situations, and equipment. I was probably about six years old and we were in some mountain hollow filled with hickory smoke and crickets and desolation, way out there in the Smokey Mountains.

Up on stage come these tiny blonde triplets in overalls, each holding a pair of spoons. Honestly, at first they made me really hungry. Everything in the south will make you hungry if you look at it the right way, but spoons just looked delicious. I kept thinking of what they were about to eat on that little rattletrap wood stage, and what it had to do with mountain music. Then it was just like a lightning storm descended into their little pink hands – flashes of bright white shining light and all sorts of glorious rhythm and vibration and clattering whirring cadence. They played a waltz. And a hoedown.

And a “fiddler’s choice” piece that probably belonged in a temple to some unknown displaced haint. They’d hit those spoons on the snaps and buckles of their little overalls. Just to get more range. I guess I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear something equally transcendent and shocking, but it hasn’t happened yet. Those girls really knew how to play their spoons.

film still, APIMANIAS by Quintan Ana Wikswo. 35mm film. 9 minutes. 2012.

Misfits and Hooligans Interview: Isaac Schankler

22 Apr

In the first in our series of interviews with artists leading up to Misfits and Hooligans concert on April 28, we talk to composer, accordionist, and Catalysis Projects Core Artist Isaac Schankler.

Isaac Schankler

Can you tell us a bit about your work that’s being presented on the concert?

Sure! Two of my compositions are being performed. Daniel Corral and I are playing Chocolate Phase for accordion duo and electronics, which is inspired by a song called “Chocolate Rain” by Tay Zonday. “Chocolate Rain” was an unexpected hit on YouTube in 2007 (I can’t believe it’s that long ago already). It’s a pretty strange song, very repetitive — the chorus and verse share the same melody — but also oddly compelling. The production of the synths and drums make it seem kind of goofy at first, but over time it begins to acquire this cumulative power of a litany or a recitation. And the words actually detail this pretty scathing picture of institutionalized racism.

Of course, the popularity of the song, or at least what people were saying about it, seemed to have little to do with any of this. It seemed to be more about the incongruity of Zonday’s deep voice and his nerdy appearance, or his odd mannerisms like moving away from the mic to breathe. I’m fascinated by this process. What does it mean when a musical artifact takes on a life of its own, and becomes appreciated for reasons completely outside the artist’s intention? Despite this disconnect, I find myself unable to let go of the idea of music as communication or expression. So I was curious to find out what might happen if I took musical material from the song and presented it in a different context.

Chocolate Phase takes the song’s main piano riff and runs it through a bunch of phase processes, where four versions of the riff gradually shift out of unison. It’s similar to what you’d find in Steve Reich’s early minimalist music (Piano Phase, Violin Phase).

It’s actually a great riff for that purpose; there’s a nice compound melody with multiple lines embedded in it, so when you phase shift it, all these things come tumbling out.

I guess in a way this was an attempt to render the musical material in a more “abstract” setting, more distanced from the specific qualities of the YouTube video. The irony is that of course it’s connected to a very specific musical tradition of late 60s minimalism. Zonday himself has a very idiosyncratic attitude toward musical traditions:

In many ways, I feel like a musical orphan. I’m not sure who my influences are. Growing up, I learned to hide the fact that I had any passion or enjoyment for music or life. Being ‘influenced’ to laugh or dance was always a sickness or pathology. It made my parents fearful that they were losing their kids. To this day, I’m not sure you could get me to admit that I was influenced by anything. It’s just beaten out of the way I think. Perhaps people call my music ‘unique’ because I don’t feel beholden to any influences.

I love Zonday’s heretical idea of a music without influences — take that, Western canon! — and the fact that he felt compelled to make music despite his restrictive upbringing. Chocolate Phase is really an homage to that attitude, and I hope it’s appreciated in that spirit.

The other piece, Mobile II (“Dear Mr. Edison”) for viola and electronics, is another kind of animal entirely. It uses two source recordings from the very early days of recording technology. The first is a speech given by composer Arthur Sullivan in October 1888, thanking Thomas Edison for his invention of the phonograph. One part of the speech stands out:

I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening’s experiment — astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever.

It was only natural, then, for me to consider his speech itself as musical material. My approach here owes a debt to the music of Austrian composer Peter Ablinger (Voices and Piano).

The second recording is  an excerpt of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt performed in June 1888. Recorded from over 100 yards away and subject to over 100 years of decay, the chorus of 4000 voices is almost obscured by noise artifacts from the degradation of the wax cylinder. Often the technological medium itself seems to have its own musical agenda; the piece explores the wonder and terror conjured by that agenda. Alma Lisa Fernandez (of the Eclipse Quartet) is playing the viola part, and she’s doing some amazing things with it!

Do you consider yourself a hooligan or a misfit? Or both? Or neither?

I like the construction of the word “mis-fit” — taken literally it’s not even really an insult. It just means something that doesn’t quite gel with other things. Most of my pieces are probably misfits in some way. They don’t even fit with each other. Someone reminded me recently that “eclectic” can also be a compliment or an insult.

Tell us about the most memorable oddball instrument you’ve ever encountered.

From recent memory, I have to say I really appreciated the melodicas with foot-operated air pumps in the premiere of Oscar Bettison’s Livre de Sauvages by the LA Phil chamber players. As an accordionist I think about breath a lot, but the breathing of the accordion bellows is always kind of incorporeal — it happens outside your body. Bettison’s piece featured the most visceral aural depiction of the bellows that I can remember hearing, almost like the ragged breathing of some dying animal. In the best possible way!

CONCERT TO CHECK OUT: What’s Next? Ensemble

21 Nov

This Wednesday…
What’s Next? Ensemble
presents
Fighting Music
Wednesday November 23, 8pm
Royal-T Café $5 General Admission

Fighting Music
Wednesday November 23, 2011 8pm
Royal-T Café/Gallery/Art Space
8910 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

Our first concert of the season is finally here! This Wednesday come join as we play the wonderful music of our very own Southern California composers Don Crockett and Wojteck Blecharz, Rome Prize winner Sean Friar, and the grandfather of hard-edge minimalism Louis Andriessen. In a time of economic uncertainty and political upheaval relax by joining What’s Next? as we give thanks for the power of musical expression.

Just to whet your appetite, check out Nick Norton’s wonderful interview with WNE Artistic Director and conductor Vimbayi Kaziboni over at http://newclassicla.wordpress.com/

Program

Sean Friar Fighting Words for soprano and ensemble
Donald Crockett To Airy Thinness Beat concerto for viola and ensemble
Wojteck Blecharz Cartography for ensemble
Louis Andriessen Workers Union for ensemble

GREEN FESTIVAL in Los Angeles this weekend!

26 Oct

Here’s an event you might be interested in:

We are only four days away from the Green Festival in Los angeles this weekend! Dorka Keehn, author of ECO Amazons, will speaking on Saturday at 1pm along with Jessica Iclisoy, Founder, California Baby and Alexandra Spunt, co-author, No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics.

Dorka Keehn's "Eco Amazons"

To find out more go tohttp://www.greenfestivals.org/

QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO INTERVIEWS JAMES ILGENFRITZ

6 Oct

by QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO

On October 29, 2011, Issue Project Room Artist-in-Residence James Ilgenfritz presents The Ticket That Exploded: An Ongoing Opera. Based on William Burroughs’ 1962 dystopian novel about identity disintegration, oppression of humanity’s collective consciousness through technological influence, and revolution through the subversion of those very technologies.

There are only a few artists whose grip upon my adolescent sensibilities was so thorough, so relentless, and so transmogrifying that I actually feel I absorbed them into my atomic matter.  William Burroughs is one such artist (Kathy Acker is another). A few hours after my own peculiar live performance works premiered last month in NYC, I happened to have a restorative beer alongside the delightfully insightful Brooklyn composer, bassist and educator James Ilgenfritz – he mentioned that my aesthetics seemed imbued with a certain Burroughsian hue, a certain WSB stink.

Yes, I said, with a fanatic, quivering gleam in my eye. Are you, too, an admirer of his existence?

When James said he was in fact creating a new opera based off Burrough’s The Ticket That Exploded, and that it would be premiering at the end of October at Issue Project Room in Gowanus, Brooklyn, I knew I would soon have to dissect the whorls and fissures of this likeminded brain over a nice pint of Belgian hops.

And so a few weeks later we adjourned to BierKraft in Park Slope to talk about the re-sexualization of narrative structure, the infliction of aesthetic discomfort,  the kinds of weeds that are engulfing William’s old car in the back yard, and James’ kickstarter campaign for the project.


QUINTAN: It seems that while some people are immune to the Burrough’s bug, some of us come down with it pretty badly and learn to treasure the aesthetic infection.  To create an opera seems highly symptomatic of this kind of full-fledged chronic infestation. I am fairly confident at this point that you’re highly contaminated.

What initially attracted you to Burroughs’ writing, and to this project in particular? 

JAMES: I read Naked Lunch in high school in the mid-90s and was drawn to both the unapologetic approach he took to disturbing imagery and the unorthodox structure to his writing. At that time there was a wealth of information on his work– the film came out, which was extremely inspiring though not necessarily related to what intrigued me about the book. I was fascinated both by his persona and by his bizarre creations.

I’ve long been fascinated by art that both elicits an immediate visceral response and then also requires a fair amount of consideration after the fact in order to begin to understand. I’ve read that this is what initially confounded listeners when they encountered Charlie Parker, Cecil Taylor, and Ornette Coleman for the first time. This definitely happened for me with Ornette’s music, though I was more prepared for both Cecil and Bird.

Naked Lunch definitely did that for me. I spent a long time considering the implications of opening that door, and I’m doing that now with this opera. When the residency at Issue Project Room came along, I knew I wanted to find ways to both challenge myself to create more ambitious work, but also to find a way to more fully address the unspoken force that guides my artistic hand, so to speak.

I quickly recognized that Burroughs’ work had a resonance that I’d been overlooking for a while, probably since the early 2000s when I last read one of his books. My copy of The Ticket That Exploded found its way into my life in 2010 in a very capricious fashion, and I tend to appreciate those fleeting moments- I like to build something big on a foundation that could almost have not happened.

QUINTAN:  The most phenomenal artworks really are a kind of pathology – there is the initial shock of contagion, and then a long time living with how it unfolds in the body, its repercussions and consequences and how the host adapts…or doesn’t. It requires a whole different kind of aesthetic outlook to create work that unfolds perhaps weeks or years after that initial encounter…an encounter that can often be quite unpleasant or uncomfortable or distasteful.  A sort of Darwinian approach to audiences, perhaps [laughter].

When I talk to people about Burroughs, the idea of Lawrence, Kansas often emerges as an imagined place – some sort of epic spacetime coordinate that lives only in mythos.. I went on a pilgrimage there as a teenager and it ended up being quite a bizarre, beautiful experience – I suspect it’s nearly impossible to have a normal, tidy, sane experience of his domain.

How did you end up making your trip to WSB’s house in Lawrence, Kansas, and what was that like? I half-expected to see his corpse in the driver’s seat of that car. A datsun, perhaps?

JAMES: As my idea to turn Ticket into an opera turned into a strong determination, two issues arose: one was that I felt that I wanted a more direct connection to the man. The creative work I’m doing is based on my personal experiences encountering his creative work, but I wanted another level of personal connection to Burroughs the historical figure. The other issue was that I wanted to make sure that I would be allowed to do this! Elliott Sharp helped me get in touch with James Grauerholz, who was a close friend and professional associate of Burroughs for the last couple decades of his life. James was very helpful on both counts.

It turned out that that day I could be in Kansas was a Thursday, a day where traditionally Burroughs and many of his associates in Lawrence would get together for a pot luck. So James and Tom King, who lives at the house and maintains the property, invited everyone back over and we had a wonderful evening full of stories and some incredible food.

Towards the end of the evening I gave a short concert, which was recorded and is now on Youtube. The experience was really great, because it gave me a chance to get some first-hand accounts from folks who knew him quite well. They were all quite gracious– as one can imagine, there are a fair number of random people who show with somewhat voyeuristic intentions because of his notoriety, but they were quite appreciative of my work and were all quite helpful– I’m definitely grateful for them referring me to Andre Perkowski, who has made an incredible film based on the Nova Express.

QUINTAN: Burroughs had a really shattering impact on many artists’ sense of narrative – not just textual, but visual and cognitive as well. He has the ability to take a subject that could be highly coherent and smash it over your head, leaving you to assemble the pieces within your own consciousness…or not. That smashing gives a lot of respect and power and responsibility to the audience, and serves as a reminder that our brains are capable of abstract aesthetic sleuthing. Fragments and shards force us to do the heavy lifting. It’s one of the aspects I love the most about his work.

Given the number of shifting components available within opera – text, voice, plot, stage setting, narrative, instruments and the multivalent score itself – how are you approaching Burroughs’ unorthodox deconstruction of narrative?

JAMES: Burroughs’ approach resonates with those of some of my favorite musical innovators– Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Feldman. These are all artists from whom I have learned things about texture, methodology, and structure. They have created work that challenged the concept of linearity and narrative, all in very different ways.

Opera is, in my mind, one of the great formats for synthesis, juxtaposition, cross-pollination, and appropriation, so I am looking to assemble a variety of performative methodologies in this work. The structure itself is modular– there are numerous discrete episodes which will be assembled in real-time during the performance. This is why I am referring to this as an “ongoing opera”– the materials will always fit together differently. Not only because the sections will not necessarily happen in the same order every time, but also because many of the sections incorporate indeterminacy and improvisation as well as notation with more implicit directionality.

I came up in a time where many filmmakers were experimenting with nonlinearity, from David Lynch to Quentin Tarantino. As I began to learn more about compositional structures that dealt with nonlinearity, I really started to see something that attracted me in a deep way. This opera actually has a big mixture of linear structures and various curved structures.

QUINTAN: I would be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t steer our conversation towards  the significance of gender and genitalia in these poly-matrix narrative constructions and compositional structures. You take 20th century queer artists – Burroughs and Kathy Acker and the phenomenal Monique Wittig, for example – who looked at how sexualized biological forms impacted narrative structure. That the “plot arc” is a male orgasmic structure. That linearity is rather penile. That a circular structure with multiple climaxes is a feminine construction…and so forth.

Their work has a conscious scatological, genital “obscenity” to it that really startles us out of these static forms and encourages us to tell our stories within a far broader framework of structures.

JAMES: Absolutely, I think Burroughs’ work shatters linearity in this violent and beautiful way. I’ve been inspired for a while by artists whose work identifies linearity as a phallic structure that needs balance. It was a great experience for me, seeing Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum– a pretty deep experience, as was an experience I had a the Whitney a while back with the work of performance artist Hannah Wilke, whose work Through the Large Glass, which was represented in an exhibit called Off The Wall: Thirty Performative Actions (which inspired the title to my work Three Performative Acts, premiered earlier this year at Issue Project Room).

What was included in the show was a couple large images of Hanna’s performance in the 1970s– images of her standing naked, photographed through the shattered glass of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare. Meanwhile, one floor down was a work by Christian Marclay that included film footage of Duchamp discussing the shattering of the glass, and how he felt it improved the very sexually explicit (though profoundly abstract) work.

I find similar beauty in the way Burroughs’ work, especially in the Cut-Up trilogy (that includes Ticket, along with The Nova Express and the Soft Machine) seems to shatter linearity. My hope is to do that with this opera.

QUINTAN: I encourage everyone to check out the opera itself on October 29th at Issue Project Room in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and to contribute your available pocket change to your Kickstarter campaign. Keep us posted with your progress, and let’s go have another beer.

 

 

ABOUT THE OPERA:

On October 29, 2011, Issue Project Room Artist-in-Residence James Ilgenfritz presents The Ticket That Exploded: An Ongoing Opera. Based on William Burroughs’ 1962 dystopian novel about identity disintegration, oppression of humanity’s collective consciousness through technological influence, and revolution through the subversion of those very technologies.  Featuring live vocalists Ted Hearne, Nick Hallett, Anne Rhodes, and Megan Schubert, video vocalists Melissa Hughes, Steve Dalachinsky, and Ryan Opperman, an ensemble of thirteen instrumentalists, and live video projections from Jason Ponce, the opera will be organized using the same cut-up techniques and emphasis on fragmentation of language that distinguishes Burroughs’ literary work.

An ongoing opera is one which has set material but is perpetually reconfigured during the performance, mixing composed material with indeterminate composition strategies and conducted improvisations. With zero staging, all visuals are conveyed through projected live video manipulations.  Pre-recorded video performances will facilitate vocalists to interact with other vocalists who are not present, or even to sing a duet with themselves. These efforts to perpetually repurpose the musical and visual content of the opera are a direct effort on my part to draw comparisons between the performative and the generative– to make the very act of reorganizing materials function both as a blueprint for making art and as art itself.

Anne Rhodes, Megan Schubert, Ted Hearne, Nick Hallett: Voices

Steve Dalachinsky, Ryan Opperman, Melissa Hughes: Video voices

Jay Rozen: tuba

Sam Kulik: trombone

Douglas Detrick: trumpet

Justin Wood: alto saxophone, flute

Mike McGinnis: clarinet / bass clarinet / flute

Julianne Carney: violin

Nathan Bontrager: cello

Denman Maroney: piano

Andrew Drury, John O’Brien, Vinnie Sperazza: Percussion

Taylor Levine, Ty Citerman: Guitar/Electronics

Nicholas DeMaison: Conductor

Jason Ponce: Video Artist / Live Processing

ABOUT JAMES ILGENFRITZ

Brooklyn composer, bassist, and educator James Ilgenfritz has been active in creative music since 1999. His work has been praised in Time Out New York, All About Jazz, and Downbeat Magazine. Recent performances include work with Lukas Ligeti, Pauline Oliveros, Elliott Sharp, Steve Swell, John Zorn, and Anthony Braxton. James has received grants and residencies from Issue Project Room, the American Composers Forum, and OMI Arts Center.

Notable performance venues include Roulette, The Kitchen, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, The World Financial Center Winter Garden, Symphony Space, and the New Museum in SoHo. James hosts the Ten Thousand Hours Podcast, featuring conversations and duets with such musical innovators as Robert Dick and Pauline Oliveros.

In 2011 James is Artist-In-Residence at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California San Diego. James is on Faculty at the Preparatory Center of Brooklyn College and at Brooklyn Conservatory.

ABOUT QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO

Quintan Ana Wikswo is a multidisciplinary artist whose projects integrate photography, original text, multichannel and projected video and film, site specific installation, and performance collaborations with composers and choreographers. Working with damaged antique battlefield cameras and military typewriters, Ms. Wikswo explores unmarked locations where obscured histories and crimes against humanity have taken place.   Her projects appear in museums, galleries, performance spaces and publications throughout Europe, Asia and the US.

The first major solo museum survey of her work appears at the Smithsonian-affiliated Yeshiva University Museum in Chelsea/NYC from August 2011-Feb 2012.

REST AREA: a collaborative installation

16 Sep

As part of the LA ROAD CONCERTS – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye and collaborator Christine Wang give CP a sneak peak of their REST AREA project proposal. The project itself will be performed SUNDAY, 9/18/11 from 11am-2pm @ the intersection of Portia & Sunset in Los Angeles.

Abstract
In Los Angeles, where cars are a near necessity and filters many a person’s perception of the world around them, drivers and pedestrians often experience the city completely differently. Often more than just a mode-of-transportation-choice, this split may trace real differences in the social/economic/geographic position between individuals. How can we navigate this difference in a way that can generate a sort of shared experience?

In this experimental installation, we would like to explore options for a public space that unites the comfort and shelter of the car, with the public social space of sidewalks, parks, and bus stops. Through the creation of a temporary shared oasis at the boundary between sidewalk and street, we hope to propose an alternative function for the automobile, while simultaneously modifying the bodily experience of the pedestrian. Through this act we hope to explore how the unit of the automobile may create new relational possibilities for the interaction between human bodies.


Christine Wang & Kim Ye, REST AREA (test), 2011

Installation
Two identical Toyota Sienna minivans are parked directly across the street from each other at either ends of a pedestrian crosswalk. Both side doors are open on the vans, and a ramp runs through the middle of each van; this creates a tunnel that pedestrians must pass through in order to cross the street. As pedestrians pass through the inside of the vans, there will be music, air-conditioning, and refreshments offered to them. They can rest in the back of the van for any amount of time they wish, before proceeding on to their destinations.

Location
This installation was originally conceptualized for the crosswalk at Sunset and Portia in Echo Park, but can work anywhere with significant foot traffic and a crosswalk that can be parked in without obstructing traffic.

GUEST BLOG: Renée Reynolds

17 Aug

Renée Reynolds grew up between Chicago and Los Angeles. She writes short fiction and paints long images while working as a freelance writer in Shanghai.  This piece appears courtesy of HAL publishing, a postpat colonist publishing house promoting China-based works by exceptional authors.  She is a long-time collaborator with CP composer Veronika Krausas. 

Fort Bringham’ere in Brief July 5, XXXX

Dear Mr. Just Wondering,

Thank you for your interest in the operations of Fort Bringham’ere. Do accept our apologies for requiring 13 months and a day to reply – foreign-correspondence clearance protocol sure can be a time consuming process! You will find all inquiries and concerns classified as non-confidential addressed in this notarized document. I thank you in advance for pardoning the necessary omissions.

Fort Bringham’ere (formerly Fort Gimme) Military Biosphere Reserve (FBMBR) is located in an undisclosed northern township. With a north-south length of 880 m, and an east-west width of 500 m, the FBMBR covers a total area of 440,000 square-meters (44 hectares).

Once known as one of the world’s largest city squares, second only to the Imam Reza Shrine in Old Iran, FBMBR includes the majority of the highest quality hiparian flats remaining in mainland China. Multiple species of hiparian-dependent life-forms, found in Fort Bringham’ere’s flats, are candidates for rare and special species listing at local and national levels, including the Dusty dead-vinehopper (Wuttanowe dustus), the Xi’s Peckerspot (Thatsanot livustus), and the extremely rare, Highway Blue Face (Cyaninan cryptivius).

As urban development, invasive species, real estate price-hikes, demolition and ground cover succession continue to efface the northern region’s hiparian flats, restoration and management are critical in providing enough suitable habitat for these and other important species to maintain viable populations.

Stewardship of rare and special species and natural habitats has a priority at Fort Bringham’ere. The proper entrapment, documentation, blog-posting, paper-mache and enticing display of such species are also mandated practices under strict Fort-implemented regulations as well as national and local law. The process of listing any hiparian specimen as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ could have negative implications for the funding, training and ranking of Fort Bringham’ere’s personnel. Access to the means by which such an act can be performed is therefore monitored with an extensive CCTV network as well as armed guards trained in relevant disciplines such as Zoology and martial arts.

Monthly reports are compiled for historical record-keeping and internal reference only. Such reports use carefully selected segments of survey and informational testimonies on northern mainland China’s hiparian-dependent life-forms. Oral history, folklore (including ancestral superstitions) and supporting interviews of expert upright citizens with extensive experience in the region, as well as qualified family members, provide additional source material when necessary.

All reports aim to create a thorough yet entertaining picture of the rare, common and otherwise compromised populations existing on and around Fort Bringham’ere over time. While content generated thusly can be used to enhance tourism revenues in future, studies conducted on Fort Bringham’ere are currently closed to the public as well as non-briefed personnel.

Aspects of high-quality hiparian habitat such as low pu-pu fecal cover, abundant alcoholic and diverse nectar sources, and high-rise dormant VIP colonies can be correlated with all regional species’ diversity and abundance. In the absence of such opportunities to propagate, many of the rare and special species will undoubtedly achieve extinction before the year of the Dragon, a decidedly important passing of amorphous energies that dictate the deepest of all meaning to all living creatures in all known economically viable locations.

Thus, all men of high-ranking cloth at Fort Bringham’ere endorse the passing of the mandate RU4-DiRoll and the doubling of munitions used in Q1 and Q2 in our on-going efforts to protect surrounding Technology Parks, as well as nearby residential and commercial development zones from any species known and unknown to pose a threat to the protocol we all work so diligently to uphold.

Your support is appreciated!

Yours Truly,

Lt. Colonel August Finis, Operating Commander

Fort Bringham’ere Military Biosphere Reserve

Blocking the Exits: The Slowpocalypse is Here

11 Aug

Notes from the Studio: Catalysis Project’s Resident Artist Isaac Schankler talks about his recent collaboration with video artist Christopher O’Leary, Blocking the Exits (currently on display at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions).

What is the nature of our culture’s fascination with the apocalypse? This dystopian thread connects so much of our literature, our films, our popular consciousness. There’s something riveting about the spectacle of it all, something that seems to mask a hidden desire, or at least conflicting impulses. What does it mean when you take something horrifying and render it beautiful? What are the aesthetics of the apocalypse?


These are some of the pointed questions implied by video artist Christopher O’Leary’s Blocking the Exits. In his words, the project “depicts an apocalyptic world where four characters have the final experience of crumbling pillars of civilization: water, food, energy and communication.” When Chris asked me to supply a soundtrack to this quasi-narrative video, I jumped at the chance (since I too am not immune to the fascination of the apocalyptic).

The visual aspect of Blocking the Exits consists of still photos that are then animated through morphing algorithms. Chris’s images are extremely stylized; there’s no attempt to disguise or apologize for the influence of comic book art. For a composer like me this is wonderfully inspiring; his images are so evocative that when he first showed them to me I had almost immediate sonic “images” come to mind.

There’s also a mesmerizing slowness to the morphing animations, and this led me down some musical paths that are a bit unusual for me. I composed four electronic musical vignettes, one for each “character” in Chris’s video. Each vignette follows a very simple process from one sonic place to another (e.g. low to high, sparse to dense, and so on). Each process is drawn out so that the development is almost imperceptibly slow, and the video also dynamically cuts between characters, making the processes even harder to track from beginning to end.

Usually when I’m working out a composition I feel compelled to subtly shade these processes, to round off the edges and hide the seams — or if I’m feeling more antagonistic, to disrupt and complicate these processes with even more processes! But in this case it seemed to fit the project to doggedly pursue something to its bitter end. Here the end of the world doesn’t happen with a bang but as a dull, persistent roar. It happens while we’re not looking or listening: an ongoing, inevitable, eternal moment.

Blocking the Exits is on display in the Speculative exhibit at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028) until August 28th.

The Life of Objects

9 Aug

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Kim Ye gives a sneak peak of her proposed project THE LIFE OF OBJECTS for High Desert Test Sites

Background / Abstract

This project started as an exercise in processing the leftovers of family tradition. In January 2011, I cruised the streets of Los Angeles, picking up curbside Christmas trees in my minivan. Some pick-ups were planned, involving prior communication with the owners. Others were more spontaneous, where I pulled over upon spotting a tree trunk sticking out between a mass of pine needles, sometimes wrapped nefariously in an overgrown plastic bag. All in all, I collected 58 Christmas trees over the course of a month.

I am fascinated by the process by which the Christmas tree falls from preciousness to worthlessness. A symbol that takes its place at the center of family gatherings and acts as such a loaded, often sentimental, representation of religion and relationality is discarded in the same manner as common household waste, dust, and dirt. The trees I rounded-up were completely used up—abandoned unceremoniously by the very family units that had chosen them.

Why does the becoming of a Christmas tree involve such a degree of pomp and circumstance, while its ending is treated with the irreverence of a chore like taking out the trash? Does this say something about a larger tendency to avoid facing the material consequences of our culture’s socially meaningful—but economically and ecologically impactful—traditions? In an effort to confront these questions, I reorganized and modified the trees in stages, giving them a newly collective physical presence.  The first two configurations can be seen below. The third and final configuration is planned for the Wonder Valley desert in the vast stretch of land behind The Palms.

Kim Ye, The Life of Objects (Installation #1), 2011

Kim Ye, The Life of Objects (Installation #2), 2011

Installation / Location

For the desert installation, the trees are coated with strontium aluminate glow-in-the-dark pigment, and then fastened together in an organically chaotic arrangement. This configuration results in an object that is reminiscent of an overgrown radioactive tumbleweed—its size and luminosity confronting and activating the viewer’s body. The placement of the sculpture at The Palms puts it within the range of human contact—fitting since the sculpture’s conglomerated form mirrors the function of the restaurant, which acts as a rhizome that generates social activity and interaction.

As part of the Homestead Act, Wonder Valley has a history of being a site for new beginnings, redefinitions, and unavoidable endings.  Within this uncanny setting that is at once magical and unforgiving, hopeful and terrifying, is it possible for these glowing tree parts to embody the affective motivators that pattern human behavior? To realize the final stage of The Life of Objects in this landscape is to postulate a new function for the material byproducts of networked human relationships.  Perhaps these discarded symbols can act as a beacon that encapsulates the resonant activity inherent in all endings.