Friday, April 28, 2017

Ivan Capote's Words

Ever since he left the tobacco-producing region of Pinar del Río to study art at Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte, Iván Capote has been drawn to conceptualism and visual poetry. ‘During that time I started writing poems on an old typewriter and I became fascinated with the possible meanings a word could have just by changing a single letter,’ says Capote, whose text-based art took root with his 2003 sculpture Dislexia (Dyslexia), which was exhibited at this year’s Havana Biennial. The work was a kinetic sculpture that temporised the reading of an engraving in the bottom of a tray covered with dark industrial oil. To wit, a machine cut a line through the oil giving viewers a quick opportunity to read the sentence — LIFE IS A TEXT THAT WE LEARN TO READ TOO LATE — before the oil covered it again. ‘Language and poetry offer me so much freedom to express my ideas. A raft of new ideas have surfaced in Verbum (I), a solo show at the blue chip state-run Cuban exhibition space Galería Habana, where Capote and his art star younger brother Yoan conceived and exhibited a series of back-to-back shows, Fonemas y Morfemas, in 2011. Two of the works were shown in the Vedado studio that Capote shares with Yoan during this spring’s 2015 Biennal — Mantra occidental (Western Mantra), stainless steel letters O-W-N tacked to the wall holding lit incense sticks (a commercial play on the eastern meditative mantra of ‘om’) and No more words, a nearly full glass of water that contains the letters spelling out MENTIRA (lie), with an ‘S’ left to the side — multi-mendacities would force the glass to overflow. Capote is also exhibiting a series of recent and recurring paintings and sculptures, including No Rearview Mirror, a clock with the phrase ‘do not look back’ substituted for numbers; canvases covered in phrases like ‘Horror Vaccui’ and ‘Vacio (Emptiness)’, as well as a long link of chain that spells out ‘Deseo (Desire)’. 'The verbs express animus states, feelings, actions and aptitudes, and the whole exhibition comments about how art shares the capacity (with words) to freeze actions for external thought,’ says Capote, who is sending works to New York with Galería Habana for the Armory Show next March, and will participate in a group show in April at the Ludwig Forum in Koblenz, Germany. Though he plans to make more material-focused sculptures and paintings without texts for an upcoming solo show, he’ll continue to express his linguistic concepts in more ambitious formats as he did at Havana’s La Cabaña fortress this spring. Inside the 18th century fortification, Capote installed a wooden scaffolding that appeared to support the vaulted munitions space while spelling out the word FAITH. ‘This was an old idea that I had in my mind from the time of the breakdown of socialism in Europe, but I didn’t have the courage to present it to the public until this Biennal,’ says Capote. ‘It’s like a renewable reinforcement that calls our attention to keep the faith in the face of any kind of collapses we face in our lifetime.’ Wise words from an artist who has overcome many.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Marinetti’s rules for the perfect meal, first published in 1930 as the “Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine.”

Futurist cuisine and rules for the perfect lunch

1. An original harmony of the table (crystal ware, crockery and glassware, decoration) with the flavors and colors of the dishes.

2. Utter originality in the dishes.

3. The invention of flexible flavorful combinations (edible plastic complex), whose original harmony of form and color feeds the eyes and awakens the imagination before tempting the lips.

4. The abolition of knife and fork in favor of flexible combinations that can deliver prelabial tactile enjoyment.

5. The use of the art of perfumery to enhance taste. Each dish must be preceded by a perfume that will be removed from the table using fans.

6. A limited use of music in the intervals between one dish and the next, so as not to distract the sensitivity of the tongue and the palate and serves to eliminate the flavor enjoyed, restoring a clean slate for tasting.

7. Abolition of oratory and politics at the table.

8. Measured use of poetry and music as unexpected ingredients to awaken the flavors of a given dish with their sensual intensity.

9. Rapid presentation between one dish and the next, before the nostrils and the eyes of the dinner guests, of the few dishes that they will eat, and others that they will not, to facilitate curiosity, surprise, and imagination.

10. The creation of simultaneous and changing morsels that contain ten, twenty flavors to be tasted in a few moments. These morsels will also serve the analog function […] of summarizing an entire area of life, the course of a love affair, or an entire voyage to the Far East.

11. A supply of scientific tools in the kitchen: ozone machines that will impart the scent of ozone to liquids and dishes; lamps to emit ultraviolet rays; electrolyzers to decompose extracted juices etc. in order to use a known product to achieve a new product with new properties; colloidal mills that can be used to pulverize flours, dried fruit and nuts, spices, etc.; distilling devices using ordinary pressure or a vacuum, centrifuge autoclaves, dialysis machines. The use of this equipment must be scientific, avoiding the error of allowing dishes to cook in steam pressure cookers, which leads to the destruction of active substances (vitamins, etc.) due to the high temperatures. Chemical indicators will check if the sauce is acidic or basic and will serve to correct any errors that may occur: lack of salt, too much vinegar, too much pepper, too sweet.”

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters)

Curated by Ximena Caminos


Los Carpinteros is one of the most exciting artistic collectives to have emerged from Latin America in recent decades. Since joining forces in 1991, Marco Castillo and Dagoberto Rodríguez have garnered international acclaim for their installations and blueprint drawings that merge aspects of architecture, design and sculpture in unexpected and often playful ways. The adopted moniker, Los Carpinteros, refers back to the older guild tradition of artisans and renounces the notion of individual authorship. Working between Madrid and Havana, the award-winning Cuban duo explores the interface between functionality and art.

Los Carpinteros: Dismantling the World Essay by Paulo Herkenhoff
One might well start out by imagining all the things engineered by modern man being perverted by Los Carpinteros until the whole of their work coincides with the disconcerting totality of industrial society itself—or at least with such things as bricks and cities or beds and swimming pools. Yet such a prophecy shall never be fulfilled, for the mordant act of perverting everything in existence could never be accomplished in a subject’s lifetime, even if the subject were a group of artists. 
Art History 
Certain works in Los Carpinteros’ oeuvre instantly remind us of historic pieces of art from modernism to the present, by artists as disparate as Marcel Duchamp, the Dadaists, surrealist René Magritte, Joseph Beuys, Pop artists Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, minimalist Carl Andre, and neoconcretist Lygia Clark. Los Carpinteros may also be referenced diffusely to fairly recent Latin American art, as exemplified by the work of Cildo Meireles, Waltercio Caldas, Guillermo Kuitca, Jorge Pardo, Carlos Garaicoa, and Iran do Espírito Santo among others. The output of all these artists is reduced to the condition of stylemes that are devoured and metabolized by Los Carpinteros in a discourse of their own, including the form and material conditions of the sign or rule of their agenda by the signifier. Ironically, there is a material vocabulary with technical connotations that takes shape based on the concept of styling within the system of industrial objects, in which carpentry and watercolor—as well as chrome metal or industrialized tents—all become material and sign.
The Name
The choice of the name Los Carpinteros corresponded to the symbolic construction of the artists’ social status. In the case of the Cuban group, the name grew out of the praxis of art, out of that which refused to seek the useless transparency of merely indicating the division of labor, leaving an authorial vacuum. The name was given by other people, however, who identified the work of the artists with materials, tools, and forms that pertain to the work of carpenters. Because they are neither architects nor engineers, the name indicates the specific nature of their work and problematizes manual craft for the execution of ideas in industrial society. This is not only an affirmation of manual labor but also an operation that occurs within the field of the superstructure, at the forefront of which lies the problem of the division of labor and its relation to the production of the exchange value of objects.
 Economy of Pure Visuality: Manual Labor
The deliberate contradictions of the artistic practices, technical processes, images, and things produced by the group—in their double condition as artists and artisans—are inscribed within the historicity of collective existence. In the social process of knowledge, the art of Los Carpinteros chooses to replace cynicism with irony. The artists attack the separation between manual labor, technique, and imagination in the aesthetic object. The choice of the name emphasizes the “labor” factor in producing works of art—an evocation of the Aristotelian relation of techné as poiesis. The availability of materials in each place is a decisive factor in defining the form of an object constructed by them. A lighthouse can be a tent in Belgium, because the material is found there, or it might be a product of carpentry because wood is available in Cuba. What they have in common is that, to them, all materials must be correlative to human labor with regard to vocation or traditional trades such as plumbing or carpentry.
 System of Objects The universe of Los Carpinteros is centered on objects produced or constructed by man, that is, on commodities. Occasionally the transference or distortions of functions are modes of mutation of the logical regime of such objects. They established their discourse around 1995, a dramatic period in the life of that country, what with cold war Soviet protectionism suffering a collapse that was reflected in Cuba’s social dynamic and the u.s. boycott reaching maximum levels of effectiveness. Food and electrical power shortages resulted in rationing and long daily blackouts. In some cases the objects do not deal with technical deficiencies but with an economy of improvisation and precariousness, as in the tent-buildings of Ciudad transportable (Transportable City, 2000). Affluent consumer society can be seen only as the antithesis of the society of minimal, marginal, and rationed consumption. The irony and paradox staged by them are constituted in the consumption/ trash binomial that is planned obsolescence and the ecological imbalance of waste.
Their objects resist functional domestication (as in the case of gadgets or kitsch) or the extemporaneous, gratuitous associativity of forms and functions. They are operations in counterdesign. After all, revolutionary Cuba was never known for its industrial (or even gra- phic) design work. No matter how confusing the object’s identity, the convulsive beauty of these works does not stem from abjection or from the surreal quality of their structures but from the discomfort that they cause by establishing a world recognized as plausible but executed as the failure of a certain kind of instrumental reason. In the end, Los Carpinteros defend the existence of the world of objects at the brink of a total collapse of logic that affects the functioning of the world and the economy. […] 
About Los Carpinteros
Marco Antonio Castillo Valdes (b. 1971, Cuba) and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez (b. 1969, Cuba) together form the collective Los Carpinteros. Contrary to the implications of their name, their artwork spans the intriguing and ambiguous space between conceptualism, activism, and formalism with monumental sculptural and architectural constructions. Works by Los Carpinteros are part of the per- manent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation in Vienna, and the Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City. Their commissioned installations are featured at institutions around the world; the most recent, The Globe—a latticed beechwood structure inspired by Enlightenment illustrations—opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in December 2015.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Interview with Alan Sonfist by Robert Rosenblum

The following interview selection was taken from the book titled Alan Sonfist, published by Hillwood Art Museum. 

Robert Rosenblum: Alan, since I am primarily an art historian, the first thing I do is try to situate you in terms of decades, movements, other artists, and to learn how you feel about such things. One question I would like to start with has to do with something I read recently. It referred to the present "mood" as archeologism. The writer thought that the whole spirit of regression, of moving backwards, of exploring layer after layer of our historical past, whether recorded or pre-historical, was part of the mood of the past ten years or so. Does that ring any bells for you?

Alan Sonfist: Yes you're right, because that is exactly what my art is about. It is about trying to uncover the natural past of our cities. I see myself as a visual archeologist. The idea of digging up this research is to bring the past into the present.

I do extensive research. My sculpture in New York City took five years of research. I discovered the history of the area by looking through the Dutch records of their lumber supplies and accounts of their walks to their favorite trout stream. From that, I was able to get some idea of how the city looked prior to man's intervention. So I find it to be an interesting work; digging up the multiple histories of an area, using them in an artwork and then placing that artwork in a contemporary environment.

RR: So, is it really a sort of natural history equivalent to art history? The whole tenure of the past ten, twenty years is to reconstruct the historical past, to dig it out and make it look like it was resurrected. You are doing that in terms of the natural history, of getting to the lowest strata of time-experience in terms of what was here before we were. There seems to be a parallel there, don't you think?

One of the things this makes me wonder about since this includes not only your geological and botanical strata in regression, but also your own regression to primitive states of being, is how do you fit that in? I mean, the things were you were caged in a zoo, and where you ran through the woods naked and so on.

AS: To answer the first part of your question, all my art deals with prime experience of the creation of the land, as with Circles of Time at Villa Celle, To enter into the main part of the sculpture, one must go into the earth, and rediscover our geological past. What I have created is a circle, rippling in waves of ribbons or rock, each ribbon representing a strata of time, thus visualizing the upper and lower strata of the hills of Tuscany. As one walks out of this ring, one enters an area representing the Greeks, who brought the laurel to Italy. One then goes through the laurel by an opening which is low to the ground. One can then feel and smell the Etruscan herbs. The passage rises, opening to view monumental bronze sculptures, composed of castings of endangered and extinct trees, that through the sculpture have been transformed into the Greek heroes the ancient sculptures depict. In the center of the circle, one experiences the forest vegetation of Italy, that which existed before human intervention. To complete the multiple histories of the land, I have shown its contemporary use of agriculture through a ring of olive trees and wheat.

In response to the second question, I would say that as humans, we are part of the environment. That is the prime concept behind my art. I feel that that was the difference between myself and the earth artists. They were involved in going out to the desert and doing the artworks there. My art is to rediscover my own past in the city. I grew up in New York City. How the caged animal performance came about is that, as a child, I used to go to the Bronx Zoo. I would observe the animals in their cages and sometimes sneak into the cages with the animals.

RR: What was the species? I'm trying to think of how you could get in.

AS: Mostly, I visited the antelopes and the deer, they were the most curious. Being a little child, the animals would walk right up to me. Sometimes I would just go in the cages and hide in the trees and play.

So, this is where these animal fantasies actually came from, my past. It's interesting talking about archaeology because it's almost like I'm unearthing my own childhood experiences. It goes back to growing up in New York City, and to when I lived next to one of the last virgin forests, which has been destroyed now.

RR: It seems like an ideal situation; a combination of both private and personal history, your own regression to your past, and also public history, because your experience is part of a general communal one.

I am always curious about the proportion of science as opposed to poetry, if they can be separated. That is, how much actual work do you do in terms of research, in order to find the truth about geological, botanical developments wherever you are working. Is it imaginary? I mean, what is the proportion of fact and fiction?

AS: In New York City, I have created four forests. Each one concerns its own unique vegetation which I get from site history of each sculpture. In Dallas, Texas, I have traced the history of the Trinity River, so that it could be reconstructed into a functional, natural waterway. The city is using this environmental sculpture as part of their master plan. I have also traced the historical streams of New York City, and proposed that a bronze line be set into the concrete, marking their past existence. During Earth Day in 1970, I marked off the natural boundary of New York City to show land boundaries that no longer exist.

RR: Have any of the official historians of New York, whether involved in social history or natural history, been concerned with your work?

AS: Yes, after the sculpture in New York was created, several historians from around the city called and complimented me on the historical facts used to imagine each site.

As far as natural history, I am creating not a true ecological model, but rather a romantic forest. My concern is to show the struggles within nature, which in reality makes for a true natural system. One would observe, within each of my environmental sculptures, the struggle of life and death, as well as the human interaction in a historical time forest. That's what the 19th century concepts were about. That is really what I am involved in, and what my thought process is trying to create. The natural cycles as opposed to doing an ecological model from a scientific point of view, or using pure history. It is like a palette. I see it as laying out facts, and then I make the aesthetic decision.

RR: It is like reconstructing Darwin. Have you ever thought of doing environments with animals?

AS: I proposed the New York City officials that they create an environment that would have historic animals, such as deer, foxes, and raccoons, that could co-exist with humans. It would be totally different from the typical zoo, which has all of the exotic animals. This is another concept for archaeological layering of the city environment.

In Dallas, Texas, I proposed to create islands that would be representative of primeval forests, and also have the animal life of the forests. Each island would have animals unique to the vegetation on that island. each island would have animals unique to the vegetation on that island. At this moment in time, the historic animals of the cities have become exotic, and lions and tigers have become common.

RR: It is the most thrilling irony to turn the least natural of cities to its natural origins. It almost seems impossible to get rom the present to the past. But obviously, you work in the in-between layers. But New York is the perfect place, the city to do it in.

AS: As the art center, New York is unique. But actually, all cities and suburban areas have obliterated their natural past, so my sculptural forests in Kansas City for example is just as meaningful.

In the last twenty years, New York has rediscovered its historical buildings. My work means that the city's historical nature can also become a functional monument to the fabric of the community.

RR: I know, I remember that there was a point when suddenly all of the 1930s buildings of New York, all of the Art Deco buildings looked like ancient architecture, and they were thrilling because they suddenly loomed as an historical strata upon which the present is built. So we are all interested in layers.

I am curious. We have been talking about the New York City and Dallas, but obviously you have worked all over. The west. The east too? Have you ever done anything in the Orient?

AS: In Japan, I have recently received a commission outside of Tokyo to create a Time Landscape in the inside lobby of a new building. This environment will show the layerings of time histories of the land in the area of the building. I will be introducing my concept of constant change in relationship to the Zen garden concept of a fixed moment in time.

RR: How do you adjust internationally? That is, so much of your work is involved with your personal history, in New York City, and what it means to you as a human being, and what it means as your own environment. But when you go abroad, to Europe especially, where you have done so much work, how do you plug into their history, natural and unnatural?

AS: Upon arriving at a new site, I immediately start sensing the land by walking, feeling, and smelling to absorb the atmosphere to associate with my past experiences. Then the process begins. I start creating a series of drawings, bridging my own history to my immediate observations of the site. For example, the Circles of Time, created at Villa Celle, began with hundreds of sketches about the environment that spoke to me of the history of Tuscany. The sketches were expanded into a set of etchings that connected the spiritual/historical understanding of this land to the universe.

I start collecting historical facts about the land, as well as natural fragments that became the stimulus to create a series of micro/spiritual etchings connecting the land to myself and the forces that shaped it. Therefore, the recollections of my past, to collecting of factual histories of the land and then connecting the environmental sculpture to the universe.

RR: Incidentally, just as an aside, did you spend a lot of time as a child in the Museum of Natural History?

AS: Yes, I would go to all the museums in New York City. I felt that there was no difference between the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Natural History. They both added magic to my own existence.

RR: It's interesting, just thinking about historical connections, because recent research on Abstract Expressionists has turned up that the Museum of Natural History was one of the major locales of inspiration for them, not only in terms of ethnological displays, but also in terms of geological and botanical displays in the forties. It's fascinating that you can connect with traditions in Western painting that go back as far as the forties.

But to get back to Europe, do you find a difference in the response to your work there from the response here? Are the Europeans more attuned to your viewpoint?

AS: I think it's interesting that the Abstract Expressionists were interested in the Museum of Natural History, since most of my early drawings were created from exhibits at the museum as well as direct observations of nature.

The museum showed me the multiple histories of the land, while the art museums were giving me a contemporary view of history. To this day I still go back to the museum to connect with my early experiences.

I feel that in Europe there is a clearer understanding of the multiple histories of the land since it has been inhabited for a greater period of time, Western art history has more meaning for them since it has been their existence. Therefore it's easier for Europeans to see the logical connection of my environmental sculptures in relationship to the history of art.

RR: How many countries have you worked in in Europe?

AS: Most of my art is in Germany and Italy. I am currently working on a sculpture park for a manufacturer in Austria. The concept of the sculpture park will be to create the archeology of the land from a primeval forest to archeology of the ruins of the historical Renaissance city in relationship to its contemporary boundaries. Fragments of the city will become settings for the future sculptures. My artwork becomes the setting for an international sculpture park.

RR: Do you have any connections with England? I always think of them as being the most earth oriented of European countries.

AS: In the early seventies, I had a one man exhibition at the institute of Contemporary Art in London, where I exhibited a series of historical, natural artworks. I was later invited to create a historical forest surrounding the ruins of a family castle. The trees that were selected were under three feet, so that the ruin would eventually disappear into a mature forest, thus becoming another lost fragment of history, to be rediscovered in the future. This inspired me later to create the centennial commission for the Kansas City Art Institute. In this sculpture a young forest and prairie surround a thirty-foot bronze column of intertwining branches cast from the fallen limbs of endangered trees. Again, the bronze sculpture will disappear over the next 100 years into the forest I created.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mazdâ - Aïsha Devi [Review, Interview, Audio, & Visual]

Interview by Daisy Jones, Featuring Artist Aïsha Devi

Release Date: 2015
Album: Of Matter and Spirit
Genre: Experimental Techno
Style: Abstract Ethereal Techno

JaeOhEsH- I found this song and video after listening to Amnesia Scanner on Youtube, it was referred to me and just the visual thumbnail showing the performance directed by Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen was enough for me to decide that I would be sharing this video and piece of music. There’s a lot of meaning in the visuals that are accompanied by the high pitched vocals and electronic techno structures. I strongly recommend this piece to any human that has the ability to press play, and without a doubt Aïsha Devi’s answers about artistic process and beliefs in this interview are really quiet impressive and extraordinary.

Daisy Jones: High-pitched, candy-coated vocals, shimmering synth lines and heart-thumping bass are stitched over images of near-naked people wearing rubber masks, drooling at each other and munching on the carcass of a raw chicken in this completely off-the-wall music video for Aïsha Devi’s electro masterpiece “Mazdâ”. If the video, which was directed by Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen, feels overwhelming, then that might be because it’s so heavy with reference points that they all eventually bleed into one multi-coloured, iconoclastic creation. With symbols such as third eyes, the shiva, swastikas (a sign that was used universally before it was hijacked by the Nazis) and Sadhu ritualism, it can be hard to keep up. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to. We speak to Aïsha Devi so she can tell us more…

Daisy Jones : “This video makes me feel insane! Tell me about the ideas behind it.”

Aïsha Devi: For me, it started with a crush on Tianzhuo Chen’s work, who is the artist who made it. When I saw some of his artwork I totally fell in love. It was so powerful. A lot of the symbols he uses in his work, I use too, symbols that have a religious background but are used in a very iconoclastic way. These ideas corresponded exactly to what I was trying to do in music. So I wrote him an email and he also felt the same connection. We’ll probably continue collaborating together – this is just the beginning. He practices Tibetan Buddhism and he really uses his body as an expression and works on the limits of his body. It’s very close to bondage. But instead of inflicting suffering on your body for spectacle, it’s for enlightenment – which I feel a lot of this video is about.

Daisy Jones: Do you feel like the sound of your music has those same religious, or spiritual ideas?

Aïsha Devi: For me, religion is dogma, tyranny and mind control. If you see the application of religion it manipulates the masses, but also religion is about exclusion. Spirituality is about inclusion. It’s about including every single being in one form. I’m absolutely monist. I think that religions try and make us ignorant and worship icons that are images and outside of yourself. But if you drop this, you start working on your inside. All you can work on is your own energy. When I’m singing I’m in a meditative state and I’m mixing mantras and I’m working on the frequency of my voice more than the significance of the words. After a while, the repetition makes you lose the sense of the words and you come to a state of serenity. In Western Europe, we love words and we love a message. To me, pop music is so connected with advertisement and the format is so close to propaganda. I like to get away from that pop format and transcend that square vision of European music.

Daisy Jones: There is something very meditative about this track in particular – in it’s rhythms and repetition. 

Aïsha Devi: Meditation started as inspirational and then it became a method. I was an outcast and grew up very solitarily and depressed with no friends. When I started art school I met some people that helped me reconcile with humans and I realised that I was not the only person on earth. I was anorexic for fifteen years and had eczema all over my body. But when I started meditating, that all went away – which was a revelation. It was a healing process. Music was already a healing process for me and meditation was also healing. Then both methods merged and became one thing. Now when I make and perform music it feels like a transcendent form of expression, and a healing method.

Daisy Jones: Your new album Of Matter and Spirit is out today. What does it sound like?

Aïsha Devi: I know what I’d like to achieve with it, but I have no idea what it sounds like. I never listen to my music. It feels weird to listen back. But I think it’s very different to anything I’ve done before. I wanted to do something that was conceptually relevant. It’s called, ‘Of matter and spirit’ because I think we’ve lost the balance between the materialistic, external things and the spiritual, internal things because capitalists want us to only believe in what we buy and see and what we have in our hands, which isn’t true.

AS EP - Amnesia Scanner [Album Review & Preview]

Article by Kevin Lozano
Release Date: March 25
Genre: Experimental
Style: Experimental Electronic, Experimental EDM

JaeOhEsH- This is a project that can find itself heavily embodied by experimentation of mutilated vocal samples in addition of new sound waves and stylized sounds but more importantly one can still find this project in queue at a rave dance club, begging crowds to dance frantically and wildly through the organized chaos.

Lozano- The Berlin duo Amnesia Scanner make electronic music that feels both organic and alienatingly futuristic. Even at its most mordant, AS somehow remains accessible and exciting, uncomfortable music you can dance to.  The "mysterious European producer" gambit is a standard and well-rehearsed gimmick by now, with varying degrees of success: For every Burial you have 100 snide SOPHIEs. Berlin twosome Amnesia Scanner arrive in front of us with a terse press release, full of mystery. They are self-described "Xperienz Designers," but they refuse to give any “explanations" for what that means. Instead, they provide the curious schmuck who’s opened their PR email with six unnamed hyperlinks. As you click along, a pitch of absurdity slowly builds, moving from reviews of their work in multiple languages (English, Japanese, German), to a suspicious zip file hosted on Mediafire, and finally the homepage for the Protein Data Bank, an archive for three-dimensional models of biological molecules (proteins, nucleic acids, and the like). Amnesia Scanner's website, too, is a cacophonous visual medley. Their Twitter and Facebook pages don’t offer much. We know they are affiliated with Berlin’s Janus collective (Lotic, M.E.S.H., Kablam). They contributed to “An Exit” from Holly Herndon’s Platform, and they produced a very interesting Mykki Blanco track two years ago. So there it is, a skeleton of biography. Was the journey worth it? The music would have to be surpassingly vivid to stand out from its surrounding rhetoric. Luckly, the gumshoe Google chase matches the music, which feels like a puzzle that might kill you once you’ve solved it.  By the numbers, AS is misleadingly brief. The six tracks total to a slim 21 minutes, but as a whole the album feels much longer that that. Each of the songs is prefaced by "AS" ("AS Wood Gas," for example), which either signifies a contraction of the band’s name or one half of an unfinished metaphor. Titles like "AS Atlas" or "AS Chingy" just add another level of interpretative chaos. They beg the question of whether or not the song is supposed to embody the object it references. More likely than not, it’s another trap door. Is it possible that they sample late '90s pop-rap superstar Chingy in "AS Chingy"? That might have to be a mystery for another day. Describing the music of AS is similarly difficult. "Electronic" only suffices if you paint with the widest brush. Sure, the music here was most likely made on a computer, but at its core it is deeply organic. You may never hear a pre-made synth on AS. You are more likely to hear your gurgling stomach or something tumbling down a flight of stairs. These tracks are overflowing, sloshing full of content, and impossibly dense. They can suddenly and brutally evaporate the comforts of time’s steady flow by queering what you think three or four minutes is supposed to feel like. If there is a steady descriptor for AS, it's "unmooring." There's no way to know where they sourced a particular beat, chord, or vocal. This leaves a lot to imagination. The sounds of AS are primordial and alienatingly futuristic, recalling all the worst parts of the uncanny valley. If we can begin to imagine what a cyborg’s chaotic inner id might be like, you have to to listen to AS. Intense as AS may be, it never becomes a slog or overly complex. The EP has an acute grasp on the rhythms and mood that make people dance. Even at its most mordant, AS somehow remains accessible and exciting, and prompts discovery by tricking you into dancing along to the strangest sonic triggers. It is a testament to the skill and inventiveness of these producers that they can make tracks like "AS Chingy" and “AS Crust" into implausible bangers. Both are nauseating, vertigo-inducing tracks, stitched together from pleading processed vocals, defiantly herky-jerky percussions, and cold greasy synths. It makes Amnesia Scanner utterly confounding. Even with biographical information in hand, several music videos, and art projects, you can't put your finger on Amnesia Scanner for one second. Music this uncomfortable is rarely so euphoric.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Interview with Richard Long, by Mario Codognato, 1997

The following interview was taken directly from the book Mirage, a collection of Richard Long's work published by Phaidon.

Mario Codognato: Your walks in the landscape and the sculptures made along the way, and recorded in photographs, maps or text works, are an essential element in your art. How do you choose your itineraries?

Richard Long: For many different reasons. I may have a precise, pre-planned idea for a road walk. Alternatively, especially on a wilderness walk, I will encounter places and experiences which are new and not predictable, and my ideas could change along the way. I like to use both ways of working. Sometimes I go to familiar places like Dartmoor, specifically using my own experiences and history for the work, and other times I could go to a very unknown (to me) place like Tierra del Fuego. Good places like that usually make good walks. 

I had a particular desire in the seventies to make my circles, and also the straight hundred mile walks, in different types of landscapes around the world. 

MC: Circles in most cultures are the symbolic representation of the fundamental elements of nature, like the sun or the moon, of the divine, of the recurring of time, of infinity. Lines often indicate continuation in space, distance communication, movement. Why have you chosen those forms so often?

RL: I made my first circle in 1966 without thought, although in hindsight I know it is potent for all the reasons you describe. A circle is beautiful, powerful, but also neutral and abstract. I realized it could serve as a constant form always with new content. A circle could carry a different walking idea, or collection of stones, or be in a different place each time.

A circle suits the anonymous but man-made character of my work. My ideas can be expressed better without the artistic clutter of idiosyncratic, invented shapes.

Circles and lines are also practical, they are easy to make. A line can be made just by aligning features in the landscape, and it can point to the horizon, into the distance.

The particular characteristics of each place determine which is most appropriate, a circle or a line. It's always obvious. A circle is more contemplative, focused, like a stopping place, and a line is more like the walk itself. On a twelve day walk in the mountains of Ladakh in 1984 I made a sculpture - marks along the way - literally on the line of the walk and the footpath. Walking within walking.

MC: Quite a few of your works are transient. A line made by walking on the grass disappears after a time. Often your mud works are cancelled at the end of an exhibition. What is your idea of duration and eternity?

RL: On a beach in Cornwall in 1970 I made a spiral of seaweed below the tide line. I liked the idea that my work, lasting only a tide, was interposed between past and future patterns of seaweed of infinite variation, made by natural and lunar forces, repeating for millions of years.

Often the transient is closely related to the eternal in nature.

In an ideal art world, I would prefer some of my mud works, especially the large majestic ones to remain after an exhibition.

MC: For quite a few years, I have been lucky enough to witness the way you install your works in exhibition spaces. You seem to give, almost magically, a sort of order from chaos. The viscosity of mud - the union of water and earth - becomes a vortex of energy which gives birth to the most beautiful wall work. An ordinary pile of stones becomes an amazing sculpture which invites contemplation and meditation. What are the roles of chance and time in the execution of your works?

RL: Particularly with the mud works, time and chance make them, in a way. Because they show the nature of water as well as mud - the wateriness of it - I have to work quickly to make the energy for the splashes. The image is both my actual hand marks but also the chance splashes which are determined by the speed of my hand, the viscosity of the mud, and gravity. There is the scale of the work both as a whole image and also the micro-scale of the splashes with their cosmic variety. I like being able to use and show the nature of chance in this part of my work. 

Time is the fourth dimension in my art. It is often the subject of a walk - time as a measurement of distance, of walking speed, or of terrain, or of fatigue, or of carrying stones, or of one stone to another. 

The sculptures contain the geological time of the stones. 

MC: Global warming and the devastation of many environments is more and more the concern of the general public and our culture. Many people see your work as about ecology as well. How do you define your art, and what is your view about this aspect of it?

RL: My work is just art, not "political" art, but I do believe - now more than years ago - that I have to be responsible, both in my work and in my general life, like anyone.

I first chose landscape so as to use the dimension of distance to make a work of art by walking. That was on Exmoor. I was intuitively attracted to such relatively empty, non-urban landscapes partly because they were the best places to realize my ideas, but also because such places gave me pleasure to be in. They had a spiritual dimension which was also important for the work. So my work comes from a desire to be in a dynamic, creative and engaged harmony with nature, and not actually from any political or ecological motives.

I believe if it is good enough, if a love and respect for nature comes through, if only indirectly, then that is my statement of intent. One of the main themes of my work is water, and water is more important than technology.

(Still waters run deep)

Making art in the type of landscapes which still cover most of our planet gives me quite an optimistic and realistic view of the world. I think my work is almost nothing, it's just about being there - anywhere - being a witness from the point of view of an artist. 

The landscape is a limitless arena where I can engage with those things that have the most meaning and interest for me, like rivers, camping, the weather, measuring countries by my own footsteps, mud, moving a few stones around, and being in places of profound experience.