Tag Archives: Catalysis Projects

Narrow Lands Production: Deborah Martin Notes from the Studio

21 Jun

This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Deborah Martin,  a contemporary realist painter, fine art photographer and curator. Visit her work online here.

 

The Drawer 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

I am in a painting frenzy working on 10 paintings that will be shipped out to Cape Cod, MA in mid July. While I attended the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, I used to frequent Provincetown. Duirng one of my visits to Provincetown, I spent the night in the very house that several of the paintings and poems from this exhibit are based on. The house has since been abandoned. I actually had forgotten that I had slept in the house-with a gang of girls (strewn about on the floor.) The memory came back to me later while working on the selection of images for this series. I have made a complete circle.

NARROW LANDS is an ongoing multidisciplinary collaborative project between CP Core Artists Quintan Ana Wikswo and Deborah Martin. For any one living on the East Coast anywhere near Provincetown-I hope you will have a chance to see this exhibit.

Here’s a note from the press release:

Martin’s sea bleached and dusty-colored paintings exist in intimate conversation with Wikswo’s spare, sensual prose poems, yielding poignant and often enticing portraits of Provincetown buildings and the women who live and love within them.

Together, the works inhabit a uniquely Provincetown landscape, forming a powerful meditation on human erosion, transformation and renewal, and a powerful encounter with the Cape itself.

The fine art book NARROW LANDS: Paintings and Prose Poems has been published by CATALYSIS PROJECTS, and will be available in hardback and paperback.

Here is a preview of one of Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Poems that will be part of the upcoming exhibition and Narrow Lands Book.

THE DRAWER

by Quitnan Ana Wikswo

The veins on the back of her hand a delta, veins swollen and exposed. Under the nails – dulled and chipped – oyster shells nibbled in hopes of reaching the meat.

On her wrist, split blood vessels hunched and sharp as sea nettles.

Her nose arches over her long neglected mouth, and a dangling brown braid locked tight against the salt and moisture of the coast.

She wishes she’d been born looking like this, some fierce seafaring Venus sprung from a whale, split asunder and screaming on the shore.

But instead she’s grown this way, and slowly.

Slow enough to notice.

Hamper 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

This is a painting I am working on titled Hamper. I  have yet to tackle this hamper which is still outlined here in Pencil.

All three of the images included in this blog post are based on the house in Provincetown I made reference to. I hear that the house is owned by Penny and Chuck who are residents of Provincetown. My dear friend Linnie relayed that she ran into Penny and Chuck and had told them about these paintings coming to Provincetown. I wonder if they will come to the opening. As I write this I am thinking how strange this all is and how somehow we are all connected…

The Narrow Lands exhibit opens August 5th -24th, 2011 (opening reception  Friday August 5,  6-9pm) at The Patty Deluca Gallery in Provincetown, MA (courtesy of The School House Gallery.)

The work will be on display at The School House Gallery opening Labor day weekend September 2-21st, 2011 (with an opening reception on Friday Sept 2 7-10pm.)

Hanger 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

Advertisements

MicroTextual Musings: Isaac Schankler Interview

11 Apr

In the last of our interviews leading up to the April 16 MicroFest event, composer/performer Isaac Schankler talks about the composer as abacus, the omnipresent 60Hz hum, and science fiction eeriness.

MicroTextual will premiere Isaac’s piece Honey, Milk and Blood, with soprano Andrea Zomorodian and conductor Troy Quinn.  Here are the particulars:

MicroTextual:  music with words | words without music
Saturday April 16 | 8:00pm
MIMODA STUDIO
5772 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Enter though Paper or Plastik Cafe
$15/10 online or at the door
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND BUY TICKETS:
www.catalysisprojects.com/microtextual.html

CP-Text can be understood as a code – a symbolic mark-making that some others can “read,”  but yet completely unintelligible to people not fluent in that language.  How important is it to you whether your “text” conveys a comprehensible meaning or communication to your audiences?

IS-Honey, Milk and Blood incorporates a text by Jillian Burcar, a wonderful writer who I’ve collaborated with a few times now.  It’s inspired by an old interview with the inventor Nikola Tesla, who had these radical predictions for the future, including this notion that society would become matriarchal and have this hive-like collective organization.  Jillian’s text is, in a way, a depiction of this society, but what’s great about it is that it’s this very open-ended and free-flowing amalgam of scientific language, poetic symbolism and almost violent imagery, so you can focus in on different aspects of it and come away with very different impressions or conclusions.

I’m drawn to things like that, where things seem to be on the cusp of a comprehensible meaning without ever fully resolving, and it’s something I think music can do really well.  We tend to think of music as emotional or expressive medium, but these emotional associations can vary a great deal from person to person or from culture to culture.  I think in the 20th century there was a lot of skepticism of this and so you see movements to make music totally abstract, to make it some analog or elucidation of a mathematical or objective process, in everything from serialism to minimalism.  But if you rigorously adhere to that process something is lost — you’re not operating as an artist but some kind of glorified abacus.  So for me at least, the process becomes some kind of negotiation between abstraction and expression, and the inevitable imperfections that result are what gives music its beauty and meaning.

CP-Why do you choose to compose in a microtonal language?

IS-I don’t always compose in an explicitly microtonal language, but when I do I’d say it’s largely driven by my background in electronic and electroacoustic music.  When working with electronics it’s really trivial to produce any frequency you want, and if you do any kind of electronic analysis it’s impossible not to notice that all music is inherently microtonal, in a sense.  Almost every sound is made up of harmonics that don’t fit in the equal tempered scale.

The kind of microtonality explored in Honey, Milk and Blood came out of some research I was doing for Light and Power, a chamber opera about Nikola Tesla commissioned by Juventas New Music Ensemble that Jillian wrote the libretto for.  I found out that Tesla was directly responsible for making 60Hz the operating frequency of alternating current throughout North America.  So this low 60Hz hum you hear everywhere, coming off power lines, appliances, stereos, florescent lights… it’s all Tesla’s fault.  It’s normally an unwanted sound, a sound you want to try to weed out or minimize, but I thought it would be interesting to use as a foundation instead.  It’s an especially troublesome sound because it doesn’t fit in our equal tempered tuning system — it’s almost exactly halfway between a low B and B-flat.  So I built a kind of ad hoc microtonal scale based on harmonics of 60Hz and harmonics of 49Hz (basically a low G).  For me this scale became a kind of link between our world and the world of Tesla, and there are some mesmerizing sonorities that came out of that.  There’s not really any grand scheme or theory behind it, though — it arose from the needs of the piece, and the next microtonal piece I write may have a completely different approach.

CP-The term microtonality is generally applied only to music that uses a tuning system other than twelve-tone equal-temperament.  However, we believe that, because microtonality breaks down one of the fundamental building blocks of western music (the tyranny of the twelve), it is a term that can be applied to other disciplines of artmaking.  Do you see microtonality in your, or other, fields?

IS-Well, one thing that’s exciting about microtonality is how it can break down our most fundamental ideas about what music is or how it’s constructed, and how it challenges us to build something new from scratch, from the ground up.  I think one of the things that drew me to Kim Ye’s work, and made me want to collaborate with her, is that she seems to be doing something similar in the physical world, breaking down these concepts of how our bodies are constructed or what our relationship is to our bodies.  Not to mention how Jillian’s text breaks down language, how we write and speak, and how Tesla’s ideas poke at how civilization is put together.  It just all seemed like a natural fit.  Plus there is, I have to admit, a common thread of science fiction eeriness that links them.

MicroTextual Musings: Bill Alves Interview

20 Mar

In anticipation of Catalysis Projects’ MicroFest event on April 16, we sent the same fourteen questions to some of our collaborators, and asked them to answer a few.  We haven’t been disappointed… the answers have been as illuminating as they are thoughtful.  First up is composer, video artist, writer, professor of music at Harvey Mudd College, and co-director of MicroFest, Bill Alves.

Troy Quinn will be conducting Bill’s piece Luminescence for choir and tape on the concert.  Here are the particulars:

MicroTextual: music with words | words without music
Saturday April 16 | 8:00pm
MIMODA STUDIO
5772 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Enter though Paper or Plastik Cafe
$15/10 online or at the door
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND BUY TICKETS:
http://www.catalysisprojects.com/microtextual.html

CP-Language can be defined as a system of symbols that convey meaning. In your artistic practice, how do you convey meaning? In what way do you use your medium to create your own language?

BA-My piece Luminescence references a mantra, a repeated ritual text. In such a practice, the “meaning” soon transcends the semantics of the words, which we quickly cease to hear independently, and affects us through the repetition itself. The words themselves become musical and gently dig a furrow in our consciousness. In Luminescence I also sought to achieve this state by expanding the words until they become disembodied vowels and meaning shifts to that which conventional language does not express.

CP-It seems to us that most people who are drawn to microtonality had an ah-ha moment where they realized the possibilities afforded by breaking free from equal temperament.  What was your first experience with microtonality in music?

BA-I began experimenting with microtonality in college when I saw the possibilities inherent in electronics, but (like others I imagine) I was soon overwhelmed by these possibilities. I had just put a great deal of effort into learning music theory with 12 tones; composing with some other number seemed to take me back to square one.

It was only some years later when I began trying out the ideas from Harry Partch’s Genesis of a Music that I began to see that understanding microtonality means seeing what lies *behind* what’s taught in those conventional music theory courses, not an entirely separate music theory. The mysteries that traditional music theory sweeps under the rug in order to give students a rule-based and gradable structure were suddenly answered. Yes, painting in color would be daunting challenge if all you’ve ever known was mixtures of grays, but what painter wouldn’t want to try?

CP-Performers often shun microtonal music because they perceive it as being too difficult to play.  How have you overcome this obstacle as a performer, and/or composer?

BA-It’s true that it is difficult to overcome years of ingrained motor skills and ways of listening, so that (so far) I haven’t taken Ben Johnston’s route and asked a string quartet, for example, to play precise and extensive microtonal pitches. That’s a huge commitment to ask of someone. Instead, I have instruments or electronics that are pretuned to the scales I want, and ask the players of other tunable instruments, such as voices or unfretted strings, to play in tune with the fixed pitch references. Good musicians always listen to play in tune with each other, so simply asking them to do so with a different set of pitches is a much more manageable task.

CP-The term microtonality is generally applied only to music that uses a tuning system other than twelve-tone equal-temperament.  However, we believe that, because microtonality breaks down one of the fundamental building blocks of western music (the tyranny of the twelve), it is a term that can be applied to other disciplines of artmaking.  Do you see microtonality in your, or other, fields?

BA-Although they won’t be presented on the MicroTextual concert, I have created videos which are inspired by the same symphonies of numbers in their images as in the microtonal soundtrack. I find that through the same proportions as in my musical tunings we will see analogous consonances and dissonances, tensions and resolutions, a great choreography of number and geometry that touches our emotions directly.

Lying in a Ditch on a Stormy Day: Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Notes from the Studio

10 Feb

by Quintan Ana Wikswo

This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo, who creates work in text, photography, video, installation and performance.  Visit her work online here and here.

When I was a teenager, some fortuitous creature slid me a copy of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”

Since then, I’ve been mesmerized by the indefatigable pursuit for a practical space for private creation and cogitation, with a door that locks. My first studio was the lower limb of an apple tree – when I got older and heavier I graduated to a maple tree – then a steamer trunk, a closet, a semi-abandoned sweatshop, my lap, the bathtub, the kitchen table.

A studio is a great place for scraps.  It’s like the manure pile of art: mostly shit, but very rich in nutrients.

Nowadays my studio is located on an upper floor in a 1920s building in downtown Los Angeles, with huge chickenwired windows peeking into the bleached out well of a courtyard. I have always considered chickens to be my muses, and perhaps it is the chicken wire windows that draws me into this vista with fantasies of transcendence.

My view is all soot stains and articulated smog, the cool hues of concrete and charcoal asphalt, and a monochrome obstructed light. All the chemicals are in flux: every visible surface is oxidizing, peeling, rusting, dissolving. Somehow, I find this galvanic activity very exciting.

It’s because of Virginia. Her command for studio is unconventional:

“Lying in a ditch on a stormy day, when it has been raining, then enormous clouds come marching over the sky, tattered clouds, wisps of cloud. What delights me then is the confusion, the height, the indifference and the fury. Great clouds always changing, and movement; something sulphurous and sinister, bowled up, helter-skelter; towering, trailing, broken off, lost, and I forgotten, minute, in a ditch.”

Required qualities in a studio: confusion. Height. Fury and indifference. Great clouds ever-changing. The smell of sulphur. Everything sinister and lost. Broken off. Bowled up.

And I forgotten. Perhaps that is the most important part – the humility of beginning with scraps and growing shoots from the muck.

Next to me on my workdesk today is a glorious bit of deliciousness sent my way from a musician friend. It’s a rejection letter sent to Gertrude Stein by a publisher.

I think it’s very much appropriate this week, when VIDA released its new report about the shameful, bigoted disparities in “the publishing world” between female and male writers. As the Guardian writes, “The gender imbalance at the heart of the British and American literary establishment has been laid bare by a new study confirming that leading literary magazines focus their review coverage on books written by men, and commission more men than women to write about them.”

In essence, women are writing, but their work is not seeing the light of day in major magazines, including Tin House, where my own work has been published. Then again, many people think the name Quintan could only be attached to a man.

One argument – made by a rather smug and odious editor Peter Stothard of the Times Literary Supplement, suggested that women don’t read and furthermore don’t know how to read quality literature, so why allow them to review quality books?

I offer him a sulphurous and sinister “screw you.”

Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead writes: “My own feeling is that there is an issue of confidence among women writers.” Hm.

So must we believe that women don’t submit our work to publishers, but rather keep it locked away in our hope chests with our tampons, barbie dolls and cooking aprons?

These are hardly credible alibis in any editor’s quest for misanthropic absolution – publishing is still a segregated industry, with women writers consigned to women readers, and the male writer deemed best at representing the literary expression of humanity.

But as long as we’re on the topic, it’s important to “submit” work. Without being submissive. Gertrude Stein didn’t get where she got by listening to fools like Arthur C. Fifield, whose role in advancing literature is surely as pathetic as the creature at the Times Literary Supplement.

Shortly after I read A Room of One’s Own, someone gave me Alice Walker’s retort, with her call for all women (not only wealthy white women) to have studio space. Today is her birthday, and her consistent efforts to get all women to the table is especially resonant.

Let’s have all the chickens in studios.

From within the fury and bowled up sulphurous confusion of the studio, it’s good to be forgotten, but only while mucking around in the manure pile. Afterwards, let’s send all the chickens out into the street, squawking.

I love the ridicule of this rejection letter, sent in derisive rebuke of Ms. Stein, who shouted her poems into the streets of Paris unabashed, furious and sinister and helter-skelter. And look where it propelled us.

Studios should be locked and then unlocked. When the work is done, send it out, ladies and gentlemen.

Send those chickens out beyond the wire and let them spread their icky little feathers everywhere.

And to catch up on the hoo-hah about the VIDA report, check out these articles:

FREE REED CONSPIRACY: accordions, zippers and a ZOTE

14 Dec

A REVIEW by CP member Veronika Krausas

This evening I attended the concert of the Free Reed Conspiracy, an accordion quartet with Catalysis Projects Resident Artist and composer extraordinaire, Isaac Schankler, along with mastermind of music boxes and music Daniel Corral, with James Barry and Jimi Cabeza De Vaca. It was at the Pasadena Library and part of their Creative Music Concert Series.

For most people accordions bring to mind om-pah-pah music, polkas, beer steins, burly smelly men and lederhosen.  There was not a one of any of these in sight.  The four musicians sat as still and erect as a string quartet.  The music was mostly minimal-process oriented- slowly unfolding music.  It was really a treat.  The first piece was by Dr. Schankler’s charming Chocolate Phase that’s his minimalist take on YouTube senations Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain.  The other 3 works were by Daniel Corral:  I-V-I, Neotrope, and Mandala Fanfare.  This last one had guest percussionist Andrew Lessman who performed on a snare (with a lovely dirty blue t-shirt thrown on the skin to dampen the sound) with a pair of sticks/brushes that looked like they had been gnawed on but they made the best sound!

It was a lovely hour and a half of hypnotic accordion sounds which ended miraculously at the exact same time as the library’s announcement of “The library will be closing in 15 minutes ….”  came on.  The performers and the audience were absolutely stunned at the timing!

The accordion is just a rockin’ instrument.  At the concert I ran into a fellow composer who leaned over after the first piece and said “you realize we first met at an accordion concert, does that mean we both have accordion fetishes?”  My answer “Yep … but don’t tell anyone!”  I frequently run into this same composer at other concerts including the ‘respectable’ ones at the LA Philharmonic.  At one particular concert, probably one of the Green Umbrella variety, this same composer was wearing a really cool pair of pants and I commented “hey, great pants.”  To which he replied “they’re women’s pants” (by the way he’s a he) and I said “How can you tell they’re women’s?” and he enlightened me that the zipper on men’s pants is done up with the right hand and women’s ‘traditionally’ with the left. Fascinating!   I reminded him of this encounter this evening and we proceeded to discuss this and the side buttons are buttoned up on on men’s vs. women’s shirts – but that’s for another blog.

When I got home I decided to do a little scientific research.  I went into my closet and counted zippers on pants.  The first thing that was utterly shocking – Good Lord! I own 24 pairs of pants!    Thirteen zip on the right, nine zip on the left and 2 pairs zip on the side.  The left ones include most of my dress pants and suits (including those made in Thailand).  The majority of the others are jeans, cords and an old pair of orange suede jeans.  The right is winning!  Maybe women’s left-sided zippers are slowly being converted to right-sided ones.

Since zipper begins with a Z (I still pronounce this ‘zed’ being from Canada and all) …  I must quote one of my favorite writers from a book that is always on my desk:  Edward Gorey’s The Utter Zoo Alphabet.

(About the Zote what can be said? There was just one, and now it’s dead.)