Three performances yesterday after doing a live radio interview with the Hamburg duo incite/ (Kera and André were super nice and down to earth).
Anyways, the first performance, which I didn’t catch all of, was Removable Room, a sort of mobile arts lab by Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse from Vancouver. It was tucked into a corner of the project room at Ace Art, which made it a bit difficult to get really engaged in. (This was no fault of the artists, or the gallery, who had an exhibition running in the main gallery that they graciously agreed to clear for tonight’s performance.) However, once you entered the charmed circle, it was utterly absorbing. There was a strong element of the uncanny in the way that they used digitally treated images of quotidian Winnipeg scenes - the Mission Church, the alleyway behind ArtsSpace, the streetlamps that I’ve looked at a million times before but never really saw. Sonically, they were interesting enough, very discrete, although they didn’t quite hit any new affective zones in their work. Perhaps that wasn’t part of their intention, which is fair enough. Again, this may be in part because I wasn’t able to get really immersed in the audiovisual field they were delineating; too many people I hadn’t seen for a long time, too much helping set up the next performances.
On to the Cinémathèque (which is a surprisingly good venue for the typical Send + Receive performances) to see This Camera is Red and J+C Feedback Factory. This Camera is Red, local artist (bringing along his Mondragon Café retinue, apparently) was OK, which is to say that there was nothing particularly wrong with his performance, but it was hard not to let my mind wander at a certain point in his set. Writing about ambivalence can be hard: there was nothing I didn’t like about his set, which had all of the elements that tend to push tickle my pleasure centres (long moments of drone, heavy reverbs), but it didn’t really cohere in some way. There was nothing wrong with his set, but there was nothing particularly right about it either. And I have to confess I didn’t see the point of the file projections (which were, admittedly, not on video as is usually the case, but on actual film stock.) The split screen images of trees and rivers didn’t particularly add anything to the performance, and seemed more like an afterthought IMHO.
On the other hand, J+C Feedback Factory (Carrie Gates and Jon Vaughn from Saskatoon, who really, really need to change that name) incorporated video and sonics together seamlessly. I liked their performance a lot, mostly because it violated just about every canon of taste that tends to congregate around “sound art” in general and S+R in particular. I.e. they were loud, abrasive, incredible visceral (‘tho I could have don without Jon’s head banging and arm waving), despite, or perhaps because, of the no-input feedback. Electricity plays itself. Sonically, it was really aggressive - all low rumbles and high-frequency shrieks, with no middle-end with which to ground oneself. Similarly, the video feedback was delightfully ugly - rainbow slicks overtaken by mustard yellows and garish blues overtaken by strange mauve shapes.
Now what exactly was it that I found so exciting here that I didn’t find in the This Camera is Red? The Saskatoon artists tread a careful line between the visceral and the merely gratuitous and I found it riveting to watch and listen to them negotiating this line, whereas The Camera Is Red (again, who I did like well enough) seemed a little on the safe side; nothing particularly new or challenging to any preconceived notions of sound were on offer there. (Another line that J+C FF negotiate is between the tedious noise-for-noise sake types and “musicality”. Although frequently abrasive and harsh, there always seemed to be the palimpsest of an actual musical logic to their work.)
All in all a pretty good evening. Listening to Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet now. First impression are that he seems to have been a bit overwhelmed by the Kranky trademark sound. We’ll see what happens tonight.