Relational March: Akron, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Relational March Day 21-25
In Akron, Ohio, we perform at Rubber City Noise‘s RCNCAVE, curated by Lisa Miralia. On the third floor of an abandoned building, a wall of speakers, low light, and plastic-covered windows set the scene for a mixed-discipline night that begins with the harsh noise of Rot Ton Bone, continuing with From Beyond and Friends, with lots of facial expressions in front of an overhead projector. The other sets are drone and noise music, powerful waves of sound that require earplugs, most people stand at the back of the room or outside in the catacombs of abandoned factory rooms. The night’s host, Carl, is wearing a Dungeons & Dragons cape and carrying dice, he tells us about his hairless cats. The aesthetic here includes a TV tuned to static in front of white plywood board with a triptych of Crumb-esque prints, huge nests and knots of black cables. Dear Andy: something about Peggy Phelan and the transition with Reagan being elected president shifting the society of spectacle into a society of acting. We have spent the most time in Ohio on this tour, it’s been good.
In Cincinnati, we play the public library. Steve Kemple has been organizing “Experimental Music at the Library” in the huge lobby in front of the popular sections. This series has garnered much acclaim from the library association and various publications and there is an audience of passers-by, homeless folks (the library is huge, and full of people sleeping by their bags of belongings), and music series attendees. An earnest and critical approach to dealing with divides between popular art (film, pop novels, TV) and “the experimental” frames this event, bowties and v-neck sweaters, conversations with attendees reveal extreme reactions both to the positive and the negative, Steve encourages brutal honesty. Aesthetics are humbly epic, there are several enormous brass seals. Here is an interview with Steve about being a conceptual-artist-librarian in the USA:
Later that night, we begin a two-night stint at The Comet, a bar and venue where violinist/composer Eddy Kwon has a residency. The first night we perform with the Healing Trapeze, the second night we perform solo pieces and then play CHUIMSAE!, Eddy’s participatory improvisation game. The Comet is an odd mix of tough subculture and friendly burrito-eating socializing, there is a pool table and a back porch, CHUIMSAE—announced by a construction paper cut-out banner on yarn—is performed enthusiastically by all. We stay at Eddy’s, where Aesthetics include lovely show posters from The Marburg Collective‘s projects drawn in ink and watercolor, and stacks of djembes and string instruments. Eddy and many of the others we meet are music school teachers, working with a youth symphony. Dear Andy: something about Diderot and emotional community, how “feelings about things” are produced by social collusions and frictions in simultaneity with tenderness and detail.
In Pittsburgh, the venue is primarily used to record experimental classical and electronic music. Our friend Joey Molinaro, the last great troubadour, a grindcore violinist minstrel central to the DIY touring scene (see his blog of punk house pianos) has organized this show for us. Abandoned Storefront/Firehazard Studios owner Eric shows us his hand-cut records and gets nervous about us throwing rocks through the front door onto the nice hardwood floor. The show gets started late, everyone is dressed up in vintage and homemade finery, studded leather jackets, dyed and selectively-shaved hair. Three of the artists bring small children. The show involves two noise sets, an elaborate tea party performance with tangled-up costumes and a theremin. We do not know these people but they all know each other, which seems nice.
Waking the next morning in the house of The Fuckies member Zorahna, we drive our longest drive of the tour, to Syracuse, New York.
Here in Syracuse, being “from” Brooklyn no longer earns us suspicious glares. The night is SPARK, organized by Boryana Rossa and the community surrounding Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Joanna Spitzner hosts us in her studio, where she makes beer and projects (whoa!! yes please), and rehearses with a host of fascinating folks, including Jessica Posner, as “Malvinas” (after Malvina Reynolds). We also meet Colin Self, the founder of the Radical Diva Grant, tonight he performs as a virgin mary-meets trance Giselle (see his video channel), our mouths are open.
In places where art is clearly given primacy and value, artists become conduits for the general tones and aesthetics of the spaces, the interests and attitudes of the people around them, and the political and social situations of their communities. This is not a new idea, certainly, but it is germane to a traveling, site-specific negotiation of artmaking.
What is really delightfully confusing however, is the specificity of individual visions within “community, “ i.e. the confidence and surety with which artists make work in each certain way. The core, the vision, the plan, the purpose, the discipline, these are in conflux between desires to please, desires to be pleased, and theories about what is pleasurable (aesthetics: the philosophy of pleasure). How does one end up making post-punk ditties while wearing a kermit t-shirt? Or engaging in a 399.75 job-as-art project in which one works at PriceChoppers? (see below) Or building tape loops towards a wall of harsh sound in real time?
Beyond context, theory, and absurd attempts to be appropriate, it matters whether you live in a large victorian house where the backyard plunges into a snarl of weeds and wild raspberries, overlooking a vista of mountainous suburbia, or whether you live in a tiny plaster apartment across from a brownfield. The ways in which it matters, however, are uncharitable, mattering only to imaginary future art history students when/if an artist’s Vision is deemed both reflective of, and constructive of, a common and uncommon culture.