Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pixilerations: Part One

Saturday night I packed up my sack and headed south for Concert II hosted by Pixilerations at URI’s Shepard Auditorium. The night was off to a good start when, after scurrying behind a large white curtain to arrive in a dark room with video playing in front, I realized that my slightly-late form had just been projected via Todd Winkler’s pre-show piece, Glint, before the whole audience. Score.

That feeling of being caught off-guard continued through the night as a feeling of nausea crept into my stomach during the middle of Aesthetic Evidence. The middle third of a fairly lightweight yet long video looked as though the technicolor and psychedelic aspects of the boat from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original) had been applied to a bridge. Having had no dinner, and a thermos of strong coffee on the train, I nearly lost it. I wondered tangentially whether motion sickness is ever a reaction desired by performance groups. As for the rest of the video: the first third was unmemorable; the last third was a beautiful presentation of nature imagery reminding me of walking around kettle-holes in my hometown. Beyond the visuals, though, the music was a pop-ambient background for excruciatingly spacey answers to the questions posed by the performance group. I hope the group re-forms this piece; it could be very powerful if they narrowed the scope of the disparate styles and unsatisfying responses to fairly objective questions.

Jing Wang’s following performance on the Erhu was at times stunning. Having no understanding of the computer component of her work, I feel I was at a loss. The instrument was beautiful – and even a non-musician could tell that her technique was amazing. Sadly, with no knowledge of her goals in using the MAx/Msp component, the piece as a whole seemed to persist too long and act as a context for performing audio tricks of sorts.

Crash Test Pavilion ‘B’ reads as a good experiment on paper. I had a hard time appreciating the technical aspects for the following reason: listening to harsh, stochastic sounds in a dark theater felt very un-joyous and reminded me of gun-shot I have heard on recordings. Sorry for the subjective associations – but there they are. The piece made me a little anxious.

Christie Lee Gibson & Arvid Tomayko-Peters then re-filled the room with delight. The length of each piece was perfect for carrying the experimental sounds they produced; Lee Gibson’s singing was terrific; Tomayko-Peters’ TOOB was magical ... and they carried a sense of elegant and macabre humor through the piece.

Finally, David Blithell’s Whistle from Above as performed by Russell Greenberg and Ian Antonio of the group Hunter-Gatherer, was a lot of fun. Fun, because the two percussionists created gaming rhythms while performing a sort of pissing-match. The piece would certainly be better off if the scope of the Blue-Man Group was less pervasive ... expressionless men on a specifically lit stage, sometimes accentuated with blue light, using electronics-entwined percussive tools? The resonances were a little too strong to be ignored. Luckily, no paint entered the scene as I waited at full attention to see what the next mini-trial would be. The two drummers never seemed to resolve their jocular battle. That left me wondering if the artist had an overall comment about people arguing into oblivion in futile and petty ways. The piece also left me wanting to read more Beckett. Thanks New Media for re-igniting my drive to read and listen to music.

As an addendum to my reactions above, however light-hearted or critical, I am extremely grateful that this work was performed in a public venue, and without cost. I am glad that time & space is available for experimental work of this contemporary nature! And, though I am not sure if the artists see their work as still in development, I am grateful for the opportunities to view art that is (hopefully) on the table for expansion. Thanks Pixilerations for a great concert.

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