Friday, April 7, 2017

Blood Work

A sound installation powered with 4.5 liters of the artist's own blood.

By Madeline Raynor

(Video available at source.)

Dmitry Morozov (also known as ::vtol::) really put himself into his latest installation. His blood, specifically. "Until I Die" is a sound installation that runs on batteries that generate electricity from the artist's own intravenous donation. The batteries power an electronic algorithmic synth module that creates the gloomy and experimental soundtrack you hear in the video above. A dark room and chandelier-like ceiling fixtures that hold the bottles of blood complete the installation. It took 4.5 liters of blood in all, but Morozov parted with it gradually, over a period of 18 months.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Rock Bottom" - Robert Wyatt [Full Album & Review]

Review by Jim Powers

Release Date: 1974
Duration: 39:29
Genre: Experimental Pop/Rock
Styles: Art Rock, Experimental, Experimental Rock
Recommendation by: Nate Aldrich

 JaeOhEsH- "Distinguishable absences of vocals in portions of tracks. Articulate presences of vocals are matched with rambling womps and whimpers to accompany a very pleasant instrumentation that moves through time for alternating durations!"
Powers- Rock Bottom, recorded with a star-studded cast of Canterbury musicians, has been deservedly acclaimed as one of the finest art rock albums. Several forces surrounding Wyatt’s life helped shape its outcome. First, it was recorded after the former Soft Machine drummer and singer fell out of a five-story window and broke his spine. Legend had it that the album was a chronicle of his stay in the hospital. Wyatt dispels this notion in the liner notes of the 1997 Thirsty Ear reissue of the album, as well as the book Wrong Movements: A Robert Wyatt History. Much of the material was composed prior to his accident in anticipation of rehearsals of a new lineup of Matching Mole. The writing was completed in the hospital, where Wyatt realized that he would now need to sing more, since he could no longer be solely the drummer. Many of Rock Bottom’s songs are very personal and introspective love songs, since he would soon marry Alfreda Benge. Benge suggested to Wyatt that his music was too cluttered and needed more open spaces. Therefore, Robert Wyatt not only ploughed new ground in songwriting territory, but he presented the songs differently, taking time to allow songs like "Sea Song" and "Alifib" to develop slowly. Previous attempts at love songs, like "O Caroline," while earnest and wistful, were very literal and lyrically clumsy. Rock Bottom was Robert Wyatt’s most focused and relaxed album up to its time of release. In 1974, it won the French Grand Prix Charles Cros Record of the Year Award. It is also considered an essential record in any comprehensive collection of psychedelic or progressive rock. Concurrently released was the first of his two singles to reach the British Top 40, "I'm a Believer."


"Plastic Ono Band" - Yoko Ono [Full Album & Review]

Review by James Chrispell
Release Date: December 11, 1970
Duration: 01:05:16
Genre: Experimental Pop/Rock
Styles: Experimental, Experimental Rock, Album Rock
Recommendation by: Nate Aldrich

 JaeOhEsH- “Gargling nothingness finds its home in this album with traditional rock and untraditional harsh instrumentations. A pleasant demonic possession takes place vocally amongst the moving shade of orgasming intense sound waves.”

Chrispell- “Recorded concurrently with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band album, Yoko’s features the same musicians, namely John, Ringo Starr, and Klaus Voormann along with the Ornate Coleman Quarteton one cut. Unlike John’s record, however, Yoko’s is much more a "jam"-sounding record. And while there are definite songs, lyrics are mainly vocal improvisations. Still, if avant-garde is your cup of tea, then check this one out. It's good, if only to hear John Lennon really get the guitar cranking on the opening cut, "Why." The 1997 CD reissue adds three bonus cuts: a previously unreleased version of "Open Your Box" (which would be used as the flip side to John Lennon’s "Power to the People" single), the previously unreleased, 16-minute improv piece "The South Wind," and a previously unreleased 44-second snippet of "Something More Abstract."

"Winter Songs" - Art Bears [Full Album & Review]

Review by Stewart Mason

Release Date: 1987
Duration: 01:09:48
Genre: Experimental Rock
Styles: Avant-Prog, Post-Punk
Recommendation by: Nate Aldrich

JaeOhEsH- “Winter Songs strongly resembles audio scenery that one would find waiting to enter a Scary Halloween Carnival. Or in comparison the journey back home after said event. Wonderfully volatile!"

Mason- “The second and third albums by the Art Bears, 1979's Winter Songs and 1981's The World As It Is Today, were originally released on the Residents’ Ralph Records before Chris Cutler reissued them on a single CD in 1997 on his own Recommended imprint. Winter Songs is the odd man out of the group's three albums, a set of brief songs based on themes taken from the engravings at Amiens Cathedral. A solemn but not at all humorless record, this is actually the Art Bears most accessible release. Unlike the group's first album, there are no outside players on Winter Songs (or for that matter, The World As It Is Today, and the relative sparseness of Cutlers drums and Fred Frith stunning guitar and violin work sets Dagmar Krause’s vocals into stark relief. The closing "Three Wheels" is a triumph of tape loops and dreamy, Satie-like piano under Krause’s overdubbed harmonies, sounding rather like a far more daring and discordant version of what Kate Bush would be doing in the next decade. The album's pinnacle, however, is the clattering "Rats and Monkeys," three manic minutes of Krause caterwauling vocals; Frith's most out-there, free-noise guitar runs; and Cutler playing as if he has six arms, each clutching a Louisville Slugger. It's the prog rock track to play for punk fans who think the style was nothing but Jon Anderson twittering about elves. 1981's The World As It Is Today returns to the explicitly political themes of the trio's days as part of Henry Cow, with that group's dry, academic qualities largely supplanted by a more urgent, insistent feel both musically and lyrically. The lyrics are despairing but defiant, looking at the world as it was in 1981, the dawn of the Reagan/Thatcher era, with a bleak sense of humor and a biting anger, most notably on the howling "Song of the Martyrs," which features the most pop-song-like chorus of the group's entire career. Simultaneously musically complex and sonically stripped down, The World As It Is Today can be a difficult record to penetrate, but it's most rewarding for those who make the attempt”

Arnulf Rainer
A la recherche inlassable de ce qui l'intéresse, comme il le formule dans son film "Loin et en vain", Arnulf Rainer fait figure de générateur d'impulsions toujours nouvelles.

Né en 1929 à Baden près de Vienne, il se décide souvent avec esprit de suite à donner une nouvelle orientation à sa vie pour se déterminer librement lui-même. Il quitte l'école vers l'âge de 15 ans, car il ne veut pas être contraint à peindre selon nature et décide de devenir artiste. En 1949, peu de temps après son admission, il quitte aussi bien l'Ecole supérieure des Arts Appliqués que l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Vienne.

L'art de Arnulf Rainer se découvre par séries.

Dans ses premiers dessins figuratifs (1947-51), il se laisse influencer par les théories des surréalistes, pour s'en détacher ensuite en 1951, après une rencontre décevante avec André Breton à Paris.

En 1950, alors membre du groupe de canailles fondé en 1950 à Vienne, Rainer provoque le public dans la pose du bouffon. Des microstructures à l'apparence organique voient le jour, ses destructions de formes annonçant déjà son désir de progresser par manipulation-destruction vers quelque chose de nouveau, de meilleur, comme dans ses retouches plus tardives. Sa peinture informelle avait ainsi déjà sonné.

Le désir d'atteindre les plus hauts sommets de liberté dans la peinture s'exprime notamment dans sa peinture à l'aveugle, avec les yeux fermés, et par une idée maîtresse qu'il formule comme suit en 1952 :

 "La peinture est une forme visuelle de la conscience intellectuelle. Le résultat d'un point par rapport à l'environnement est le moment de sa naissance. Le nombre infini de points (la surface homogène) les estompe. Sur les traces de la réduction permanente, elle aspire à une situation limite (la distillation et la dissolution). Pour la destruction des idoles du millénaire, un moyen de libération inlassable par rapport à une tradition qui est la deuxième."

 Dans les années 50 et 60, Rainer commence à retoucher en monochromie ses propres œuvres, ainsi que celles mises à sa disposition par d'autres artistes (par exemple, par Mathieu, Vasarely et Vedova). Le langage imagé utilisé dans les "retouches", qui ont donné lieu par la suite aux "ajouts de peintures", présentent un thème central dans la peinture de Rainer et de son plus grand groupe de travaux. La technique consistant à griffonner, peindre ou dessiner sur un travail lui sert également à conférer une expression plus significative à ses photos noir et blanc avec des attitudes issues de la gestuelle corporelle. C'est le cas également pour les retouches de photos "Face Farces" (1970), qui représentent toutes les poses corporelles imaginables de Rainer.

 Bien que l'artiste désigne les "retouches" comme des "antipodes dialectiques" à ses travaux faisant intervenir le langage du corps gestuel-mimique, il englobe ici la querelle des deux disciplines artistiques en une synthèse visuelle. Ses travaux de langage corporel ont commencé par des grimaces dans les cabines photos. Il expérimente d'une part avec son corps comme fond de peinture et, d'autre part, comme matériau dans sa peinture à la main et aux doigts apparue en 1973.

 Dans une citation significative, Arnulf Rainer nous explique pourquoi la retouche est un plaisir intérieur : "La peinture, pour terminer la peinture". Cela signifie : parvenir, par corrections et modifications, à une nouvelle expression, en relation dialectique avec un autre niveau, à une vue nouvelle, plus profonde.

 Voici ce que disait Rainer à propos de sa méthode de "retouches" : "Avec critique et hostilité envers tout, je parviens à corriger et à retoucher. Ce n'est que maintenant que j'ose détruire, parce que quelque chose de meilleur en sort. Les représentations fixes mais floues me comblent, se différencient et se concrétisent seulement pendant le dessin et deviennent quelque chose de nouveau. Après une ou deux heures, je suis épuisé. Les améliorations ne sont plus que modifications ou souvenirs. Les idées ne s'élargissent pas de ce qui est déjà fait."

Après un retour à sa période surréaliste précoce, et sous l'influence d'hallucinogènes, comme la Psilocybine et le LSD, Rainer crée des dessins figuratifs en 1965.

Plusieurs films sur l'avant-gardisme autrichien, qui influencèrent Rainer de manière décisive, et leurs rapports avec la drogue voient le jour.

Entre ses retouches par dessin de divers sujets, comme les grottes et les roches, l'architecture souterraine et les poses de femmes (1974-77) et sa série de retouches photos "art sur l'art" d'artistes célèbres, il n'y avait qu'un pas.

Dans la série des "têtes de caractère" du génie méconnu de la sculpture baroque, F.X. Messerschmidt, Rainer choisit par exemple des reproductions photographiques du "satirique" ou du "clown à griffes", pour faire des retouches par dessin. Il retouche d'autres photos d'œuvres de Dorés, de la "Caricature" de Zanetti, de Léonard de Vinci et, au début des années 80, des œuvres de Goya, Holbein, Blake après la Divine Comédie de Dante.

Il s'agit non seulement de rehausser l'expression par les lignes de contour, comme pour les têtes de Messerschmidt, mais aussi d'apporter des ajouts de peintures, des coupures gestuelles-visuelles, des modifications, suite à quoi on ne reconnaît plus le motif d'origine que sur le côté ou flottant ça et là. Par la suite, il étend sa méthode à des représentations de tableaux graphiques de feuilles, de fleurs et d'animaux et aussi du cosmos.

A cette époque (1977), Rainer est confronté à la thématique de la mort. Les croix avaient déjà été un de ses thèmes de prédilection, et il le reprit rapidement. On retiendra également un dessin précoce de "Rainer à l'article de la mort" (1949). Il s'agissait alors de masques mortuaires de personnages célèbres dans le domaine de la politique, la littérature, la philosophie et la musique (comme Uhland, Robespierre, Schiller, von Weber, Fichte, Puccini, Liszt, Haydn, etc.). Il est évident que le thème des masques intéressait Rainer depuis longtemps, notamment par rapport aux grimaces. C'est l'expression figée de la vie qui s'en va, l'extinction et le regard douloureux de ce qui n'est plus que corporel que Rainer a choisi comme fond thématique de ses retouches par dessin, que Werner Hofmann caractérisait de "obsession", comme une "excursion sur la crête entre art et rituel".

Hofmann et le prêtre Otto Mauer, qui avait fondé la très influente galerie d'avant-garde à Vienne en 1955, la "Galerie près de St. Stephan", voient la conciliation de la contradiction dans les travaux de Rainer, entre couleurs agressives et réconciliation (voir "Face Farces"), dans une perspective chrétienne. Johannes Cladders décrit les travaux de Arnulf Rainer de la manière suivante : "Ses tableaux ne sont pas des peintures en dialogue esthétique ou langage personnel, pas plus que des illustrations de quelque chose, des allégories de quelque chose, des symboles de quelque chose. Ce sont des actions, la victoire de l'inutilité, de l'infériorité".

En 1981, Rainer reçoit une chaire de professeur à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts à Vienne. En 1995, il est mis à la retraite à sa demande. Il vit actuellement à Vienne, en Haute-Autriche, en Bavière et à Ténériffe.

Lilian Haberer 

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Watch an Avant-Garde Bauhaus Ballet in Brilliant Color, the Triadic Ballet First Staged by Oskar Schlemmer in 1922
by Josh Jones

We credit the Bauhaus school, founded by German architect Walter Gropius in 1919, for the aesthetic principles that have guided so much modern design and architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries. The school’s relationships with artists like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe means that Bauhaus is closely associated with Expressionism and Dada in the visual and literary arts, and, of course, with the modernist industrial design and glass and steel architecture we associate with Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames, among so many others. 

We tend not to associate Bauhaus with the art of dance, perhaps because of the school’s founding ethos to bring what they saw as enervated fine arts and crafts traditions into the era of modern industrial production. The question of how to meet that demand when it came to perhaps one of the oldest of the performing arts might have puzzled many an artist. But not Oskar Schlemmer. A polymath, like so many of the school’s avant-garde faculty, Schlemmer was a painter, sculptor, designer, and choreographer who, in 1923, was hired as Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop. 06_early-prod-shot 

Before taking on that role, Schlemmer had already conceived, designed, and staged his most famous work, Das Triadische Ballet (The Triadic Ballet). “Schlemmer’s main theme,” says scholar and choreographer Debra McCall, “is always the abstract versus the figurative and his work is all about the conciliation of polarities—what he himself called the Apollonian and Dionysian. [He], like others, felt that mechanization and the abstract were two main themes of the day. But he did not want to reduce the dancers to automatons.” These concerns were shared by many modernists, who felt that the idiosyncrasies of the human could easily become subsumed in the seductive orderliness of machines. 08_triadicballetoskar-schlemmer4 

Schlemmer’s intentions for The Triadic Ballet translate—in the descriptions of Dangerous Minds’ Amber Frost—to “sets [that] are minimal, emphasizing perspective and clean lines. The choreography is limited by the bulky, sculptural, geometric costumes, the movement stiflingly deliberate, incredibly mechanical and mathy, with a rare hint at any fluid dance. The whole thing is daringly weird and strangely mesmerizing.” You can see black and white still images from the original 1922 production above (and see even more at Dangerous Minds). To view these bizarrely costumed figures in motion, watch the video at the top, a 1970 recreation in full, brilliant color. triadic-ballet-notes 

For various reasons, The Triadic Ballet has rarely been restaged, though its influence on futuristic dance and costuming is considerable. The Triadic Ballet is “a pioneering example of multi-media theater,” wrote Jack Anderson in review of a 1985 New York production; Schlemmer “turned to choreography,” writes Anderson, “because of his concern for the relationships of figures in space.” Given that the guiding principle of the work is a geometric one, we do not see much movement we associate with traditional dance. Instead the ballet looks like pantomime or puppet show, with figures in awkward costumes tracing various shapes around the stage and each other. triadic-group-photo-and-eight-scene-photos 

As you can see in the images further up, Schlemmer left few notes regarding the choreography, but he did sketch out the grouping and costuming of each of the three movements. (You can zoom in and get a closer look at the sketches above at the Bauhaus-archiv Museum.) As Anderson writes of the 1985 revived production, “unfortunately, Schlemmer’s choreography for these figures was forgotten long ago, and any new production must be based upon research and intuition.” The basic outlines are not difficult to recover. Inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Schlemmer began to see ballet and pantomime as free from the baggage of traditional theater and opera. Drawing from the stylizations of pantomime, puppetry, and Commedia dell’Arte, Schlemmer further abstracted the human form in discrete shapes—cylindrical necks, spherical heads, etc—to create what he called “figurines.” The costuming, in a sense, almost dictates the jerky, puppet-like movements of the dancers. (These three costumes below date from the 1970 recreation of the piece.) 10_tradic-ballet-3-figures 

Schlemmer’s radical production has somehow not achieved the level of recognition of other avant-garde ballets of the time, including Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Stravinsky’s, Nijinsky-choreographed The Rite of Spring. The Triadic Ballet, with music composed by Paul Hindemith, toured between 1922 and 1929, representing the ethos of the Bauhaus school, but at the end of that period, Schlemmer was forced to leave “an increasingly volatile Germany,” writes Frost. Revivals of the piece, such as a 1930 exhibition in Paris, tended to focus on the “figurines” rather than the dance. Schlemmer made many similar performance pieces in the 20s (such as a “mechanical cabaret”) that brought together industrial design, dance, and gesture. But perhaps his greatest legacy is the bizarre costumes, which were worn and copied at various Bauhaus costume parties and which went on to directly inspire the look of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the glorious excesses of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust stage show. 

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