the last Upgrade & HarS in Montreal.. Akiyama & Quijada + Panarticon online

On a side note, Vancouver's Discorder has archived its magazine circa 2000 - 2004, and my Panarticon columns can be found in the monthly archives here.

but HOLA .. this past Upgrade! in Montreal was an intensive one, with a solid four hours of art, performance and talks. Electronic musician Mitchell Akiyama and dancer Victor Quijada of RubberDance company performed a stunning improvisational piece that combined Mitchell's guitar-processed soundscapes with Quijada's fluid, evocative and recombinant dance. I say "recombinant" as Quijada mixes breakdance, modern dance, and street-styles in a form that is powerfully affective. His improvisation @ SAT began with stasis.. with sitting.. with meditation and preparation, mental consideration.. with barely looking at the audience, and proceeded to a slow detachment from his bench, persistently returning to sit down and contemplate, before investigating the repetitive act, again... eventually this led to a distinct separation from the object, as he moved into the second movement, and began to engage the low-risers around him, before erupting into the third movement of motion, and eventually, slow motion--I'm tempted to say death--grasping at the lost object, the bench, source of anxiety and reference....

At times, he found the floor, panting and gasping, at other times moving suddenly and without warning as if in combat or Capoeira. But the most eloquent moment was a slow bend, an elongation of the body to a single purpose, aesthetic and futile but successful, on one leg, as he moved to touch his hand to the floor. All the while, Mitchell's soundscape throbbed with a seascape of emotion and complexity, as guitar-processed ripples encountered electronic software patchwork. The improvisation was rich and considerate in what theorists would call its polyvocality, and the territory being explored, although echoing somewhat Tim Hecker's work with dance companies, was nonetheless unique and substantial -- one hopes this continues to develop into a full and future artwork that will not be "art" per se at all.

After the performance and a quick roundtable came on Harold Schellinx, a.k.a. HarS, whose Soundblog I have been following for some time. HarS was in town for a residency at the eTay loft here in Montreal. He talks a little about the residency here and here; he asked me for some performers to join in the wired fun and so I sent off some names.. unfortunately with a number of things going on at the time--madness, hospitalization, brain surgery--I was unable to make it, and so I missed out on quite a jam with Anna Friz, David Turgeon + Aime Dontigny, Esther Bourdages, Jen Morris [sic], Tomas Phillips and Chantale Laplante...

HarS is very Dutch. He's going to find this funny, but as a half-DutchMan myself, I see the traits: the obsessive neuroses that lead to great art and great engineering, the insane dedication, come hell or high water (usually both in the Netherlands). Whether it's dams or intricately organised squats, the Dutch are usually extraordinarily pragmatic in their microcultural pursuits. HarS is the premium of the crop -- his lecture revolved around a narrative claiming that, after years of journalism and music appreciation, he stopped listening to music for 15 years, from about 1985 to 2000. What do you do, then, instead? Well, of course! he went around recording everything on tape cassettes. Only a few short years ago, he decided to start listening to his recordings (as well as music again) and has been considering ways of arranging, archiving and performing this massive audio collection ever since. One observation that struck me from HarS was that, for him, the recordings--which are often of a low quality; they are not the "field recordings" we associate with Phil Niblock, for example--are no different than pop music.

His "performance" of these recordings--including a found sound cassette that was quite eerie and disconcerting, of a woman singing songs and beginning with "Oh Canada," in English, that he found here in Montreal--layered various levels of recordings, of hiss and distortion, answering machines and environmental audio. Surprisingly, he deployed rhythm. It was rhythm through the found sound of a frequent radio burst and through answering machine recording beeps, but it nonetheless set a pulse to the experiment which somewhat surprised me: is this the backbeat of pop music? The piece reminded me of Throbbing Gristle, of many industrial experiments in the destruction of music, and of my own late night experiments at CiTR radio in Vancouver fueled by listening to my predecessors the G42 Players, fucking with tape loops, magnets, radio station feedback, microphone mayhem, mangled recordings and destroyed vinyl, what we used to call "radio-art"... (kudos to Anna Friz for introducing me to the form, as well as ex-co-partners enahs & anirtak).

I feel that there is a supreme act of violence in reducing pop to found noise, or, the world to pop. Thus from the noise of the world to the slick of the commercial production studio lies the violence of suggesting the complicity of capital's sleek advert-selling sonic memes to the sounds of everyday life. A beautiful violence. The critique inherent in this equation is like Chris & Cosey, with a little help from Merzbow, doing something real nasty with Adorno, in the Deleuzean fashion.

This is a good violence. It is just that, for quirky Dutchpeople* like HarS, this violence is often simply the tragicomedy of what to do with all these cassettes cluttering the shelves. What to do .. oh... what to do.

*I'm allowed to poke fun at the Dutch, because I see this in myself.

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posted. Thu - February 24, 2005 @ 10:08 AM           |