Suspended Radiophonic Breath Terrains: Anna Friz and Coppice at Tritriangle

July 25, 2013 · Print This Article

Anna Friz and Coppice performed in their audio installation at Tritriangle on 5/25/2013 in Chicago, IL. The two installations and two live performances occupied the gallery as co-existing organisms. [1] Each stemming from Friz’s and Coppice’s own larger overarching projects, Friz’s Nocturne and Coppice’s A Vinculum Variation are iterations, though it becomes clear that these iterations are not repetitions, but manifestations of differences in space, time, and materiality. The artists filled the spaces above my head and below/around my feet with sounds produced by other bodies: people, instruments, apparatuses, and radios. The two installations created the terrain in which the live performances inhabited. The earthy landscape, coupled with a cloud of respiration, constituted a world of transmission that enabled relationships to form in and between bodies.

Anna Friz "Nocturne" and Coppice "A Vinculum Variation." Photo by Amanda Gutierrez.

Anna Friz “Nocturne” and Coppice “A Vinculum Variation.” Photo by Amanda Gutierrez.

Installation Navigation

In the space of Tritriangle, tiny blueish-silvery lights floating in air illuminate 82 small silver radios suspended from thin silver wires, a cloud of radios. In one corner of the space is blue light; in two other corners, yellow-gold illuminations. The blue corner holds three hand-built radios by the inventor George Kagan, an accordion, a harmonica, a chair, a mixer, and other sound equipment. Two radio transmitters fixed near the ceiling, send signals on two different frequencies to the 82 suspended radios. The radios, hovering at different levels around my head, emit gentle sounds of an accordian-played melody, breath, and radio static. The golden-brown corner contains a chair, an accordion, a box. Another corner contains a set-up with tape players, speakers, and an inductive mixing table with devices that send signals to the speakers lining the room close to the floor. These speakers emanate sounds of breathing, bellows of an accordion, air passing through processed reeds, the crackling paper inside a shruti box, pressure cuffs, and a funnel. In a third corner, golden light illuminated that illuminates a metal funnel.

A Vinculum Variation; Coppice’s Archived Air Contours

For the installation and performance at Tritriangle, Chicago-based duo Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) created a listening experience that compelled the listener to navigate and inhabit the space of the gallery in a fluid way. Before the performances, the audience could walk freely around the space and stop to observe what was emitting from the various speakers lining the room. During the performance, the audience stilled and the artists and the audio material activated. Cuéllar, playing the accordion and free reeds, moved his own body around and through the space, while Kramer used two custom-built apparatuses: his customized inductive mixing table and customized cassette tape player. Kramer, kneeling on the floor, using this table, which “redistributes the sounds of the Vinculum archive as they are played back through small speakers resting at different locations on its surface,” [2] changes the location from where sounds poured. The cassette tape instrument Kramer designed and created is able to “make a record of the sonic space that also reproduces the recording from moments ago while simultaneously recapturing its own output.” [3]

These devices together create space and time that shift and refuse to remain static or linear. The changes in the part of the room that contained the raw recordings from the Vinculum archive created a constantly changing environment of breathing; audio materials from their ongoing-archive emerged in the space and surrounded the audience with breath. Cuéllar, changing positions throughout the space of the installation, used the accordion’s keys and bellows to breathe sounds throughout the room. Coppice’s contribution to the installation as a whole grounded the audience and the space itself creating a material terrain the viewer could navigate and explore.

Coppice "A Vinculum Variation." Photo by Amanda Gutierrez.

Coppice “A Vinculum Variation.” Photo by Amanda Gutierrez.

Coppice’s installation and performance at Tritriangle emerged from its ongoing project since 2010Vinculum, a constantly shifting index of sounds, bodies, and space that involves isolating and highlighting particular sounds that are specific to Coppice. Sitting down with Cuéllar and Kramer in their studio, they describe their interest in the “behavior of sounds” [4] and the ways in which different sounds demand a different kind of listening. However, Coppice is not necessarily interested in making the listener more aware of the plethora of quotidian sounds that may surround her. Rather, the listener is encouraged to connect to the collection of sounds Coppice draws from to create their compositions. The work is deeply self-referential in its consistent pointing back to itself, its own self-reflexivity. The recordings, which are used to form Coppice compositions, are stored and categorized as specimens the listener can study and discover within the work. Coppice’s archival process, which involves recording the sounds and storing them in built containers or vessels – hand-sewn pouches or built wooden boxes (for Vinculum Specimen Edition), produces a peculiar meditation on the nature of cataloguing. What is capable of being stored? What should be saved? The individual entries/specimens can then be accessed and experienced by the listener in a multitude of ways. Coppice encourages the listener “to play the discs simultaneously on repeat from multiple players when possible.” [5] However, the listener has the ability to change the order and method of playback to create her own way of experiencing the archived sounds. The archive is not static and is rather presented as a collection that is open to change and re-arrangement; it is an “open composition.” [6]

Coppice describes the sounds of Vinculum as quiet and having to be found from a particular point of view. Because Coppice is concerned with each sound’s specific experiential condition, the recordings in the archive capture the particular spatial arrangement necessary to recognize the sound, making the archive one of space and the way the listener and the instrument inhabit space. Many of the sounds Coppice finds, makes, and records relate to the human body and its rhythms. The breath that passes through a tube and the air that traverses through the bellows of an accordion or pump organ indicate the necessity of the body to the production of that sound, whether it is the musician’s breath, hands, or feet interacting with the instrument or apparatus. They claim that it is the “air on the edge of things” [7] that makes its way into the auditory. Coppice’s sounds that insist on the “air on the edge of things” found themselves in conversation with Friz’s dreamy cloud of radio breath that floated above their audio terrain.

Nocturne; Anna Friz’s Radiogenic Objects

Canadian sound and radio artist Anna Friz, who is currently based in Chicago, performed second, immediately following Coppice, in the installation’s landscape. While the suspended radios picked up the transmission of an accordion-played melody, Friz began to play that same phrase in the middle of the space. The recordings emanating from the tiny radios and the live instrument in the installation mingled together in a sea of sounds and lights. When the recorded melody ended, Friz used the live accordion with its bellows to create a drone, filling the space. At one point, Friz got up, put the accordion down, turned on the handbuilt radios, picked up the harmonica, and began to play the instrument, sending it through the transmitters to the radios filling the space above my head.

Anna Friz "Nocturne." Photo by Amanda Gutierrez.

Anna Friz “Nocturne.” Photo by Amanda Gutierrez.

Nocturne is an iteration of her radiophonic installations that began in 2006 with You are far from us, a project she has been transforming since its premiere at Radio Revolten Festival at Ärtzejaus in Halle, Germany. The work explores the notion that radio technology is not disembodied, and that it actually holds within it traces of bodies and perhaps even allows us to overcome distance between bodies. Friz materializes the radio’s possible embodiment through voice and its breath, corporeality, and emotion. Breath and radio are intimately linked; Friz describes the phenomenon of the breath and radio static as sharing the same frequency range – a fascinating aspect of radio’s embodiment. She also describes the radios and their tendency to drift from their frequencies as a precarious bodily situation, not unlike human and nonhuman animal bodies that are subject to their environments and situations. The radios are in relationships with each other, though mediated through the multiple radio transmitters that populate the ceiling of the space.

The first manifestation of the installation You are far from us involved four transmitters, 50 radios, and 5-10 hand-crank Grundigs. This installation focused on the disastrous human condition and the ways in which it is transmitted and created through radio. In her statement for You are far from us, Friz asks the question: “What nearly inaudible signals, transmitted in moments of intensity or crisis — what do people seek to transmit, in a moment between the intake of breath and the breath held, waiting, in tension?” [8] Further, in turning to the specificity of the radio, she states that “[b]uilt on breath and other bodily exclamations typically absent from regular radio broadcasts, the radios operate at the limit of their capacity to transmit emotion.” [9] This interest in the radio as entity and performer itself is something Friz has been working with, an evolvement of her earlier work which conceptualized the radio as containing within itself people and that “the voices emanating from the radio were the voices of the little people who lived inside. Turn on the radio, the little people begin to talk, change the station and they change their voices. I imagined the radio people waited inside while the radio was off, ever ready to perform at the click of the dial.” [10] Now, she conceptualizes the radios themselves as the performing entities, not tied to a necessarily anthropomorphic view of the world. This is not to say that the radios are entirely outside the realm of human experience; they experience the precariousness of the world in perhaps a similar way. They tune in to frequencies and then drift off, floating and locking into a new one — a new world experience.

Friz describes the radios suspended in the floating cloud as sleeping, experiencing REM cycles, taking in the day and processing it through dreams. Nocturne at Tritriangle is an outgrowth of the section “Nocturne” from Friz’s previous installation You are far from us, with the section’s intent being “stilling the breath and relaxing [the radios].” [11] Friz emphasizes that she chooses to privilege the auditory over the visual in the installation because it helps the listener “focus attention on moving through space” [12] and instills the notion that the listener is a sensing body. The stilling of the breath and the radios drives home this recognition. When limiting one sense, other senses heighten. The viewer is no longer dependent on the two orbs situated in the front of the head as guides through space. The audio creates spatial relationships that enable the viewer to navigate the space at her own leisure. This navigational drifting relates to the radios’ own drifts. The radios experience the phenomenon of capture effect, thus causing them to detune and find a new channel to occupy. For Friz, the detuning isn’t necessarily about interference, since the notion of interference corresponds to a cybernetic theory of communication with involves fidelity to a message. Rather, she is interested in exploring “fields of influence.” [13] The radios’ detuning don’t mark a deficiency or breakdown. Instead, the tuning into different frequencies seem to reflect human and nonhuman animal choices to take a turn, go down a different path. The suspension of the inhale, [14] creates the space in which life is lived, with all of its precariousness.

We Breathe

Coppice and Friz created an environment in which the audience and the device could all breathe together, exchanging exhalations and inhalations actualizing a cloud of respiration. Focusing on the breath allows us to recognize that we are constantly exchanging material from our own bodies with the world. Though, this body in its continual state of exchange shows us that the molecules in our own bodies aren’t static and can’t always belong to us; these molecules are only finding themselves to exist within us for a passing moment in time. “The breath does not belong to the self. It enters and exists of its own accord. It inhabits the empty space of the lungs for brief periods and the same molecules and particles may never enter again.” [15]

Notes

[1] Personal conversation with Anna Friz and Coppice at the performance, May 25, 2013.

[2] Coppice, A Vinculum Variation, http://www.futurevessel.com/coppice/work/performance-installation/a-vinculum-variation.

[3] Joseph Kramer, “Episode 31: Porous Notion: Index Fragments and Interpretation,” Radius (Oct. 2012): http://theradius.us/episode31.

[4] Personal interview with Coppice, June 5, 2013.

[5] Coppice, Vinculum, http://www.futurevessel.com/coppice/work/recordings/vinculum.

[6] Personal interview with Coppice.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Anna Friz, You are far from us, http://nicelittlestatic.com/sound-radio-artworks/you-are-far-from-us/.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Anna Friz, Who are the people inside your radio, http://nicelittlestatic.com/sound-radio-artworks/who-are-the-people-in-your-radio/.

[11] Personal interview with Friz, June 8, 2013.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Friz describes the inhalation as suspension.

[15] Meredith Kooi, “Aristophanes’ Hiccups and Relational Spasms,” given at Location/Location symposium organized for Field Static: A Group Show About the Object, Co-Prosperity Sphere (Chicago, IL: June 6, 2012), 6.

 

 




Episode 347:Katharina Fritsch

April 24, 2012 · Print This Article

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This week: We talk to artist Katharina Fritsch!

Richard says “cock” and “Hologram Tupac” a whole lot.

Katharina Fritsch is known for her sculptures and installations that reinvigorate familiar objects with a jarring and uncanny sensibility. Her works’ iconography is drawn from many different sources, including Christianity, art history and folklore. She attracted international attention for the first time in the mid-1980s with life-size works such as a true-to-scale elephant. Fritsch’s art is often concerned with the psychology and expectations of visitors to a museum. Gary Garrels wrote that “One of the remarkable features of Fritsch’s work is its ability both to capture the popular imagination by its immediate appeal and to be a focal point for the specialized discussions of the contemporary art world. This all too infrequent meeting point is at the center of her work, as it addresses the ambiguous and difficult relationships between artists and the public and between art and its display—that is, the role of art and exhibitions and of the museum in the late twentieth century.” The special role colour plays in Fritsch’s work has roots in her childhood visits to her grandfather, a salesman for Faber-Castell art supplies, whose garage was well-stocked with his wares.

Her most recognized works are Rattenkönig/Rat King (1993), a giant circle of black polyester rats, included in the 1999 Venice Biennale. Other works include Mönch (Monk) (2003), a stoic, monochromatic male figure, made of solid polyester with a smooth, matte black surface; Figurengruppe / Group of Figures (2006-2008), an installation of nine elements; and Hahn (Cock) (2010), a 14ft (4.3m) cockerel in ultramarine blue to be shown on London’s Trafalgar Square in 2013.

In her working process, Fritsch combines the techniques of traditional sculpture with those of industrial production. While many of her early works were handcrafted, Fritsch now makes only the models for her sculptures and then hands these over to a factory for production, to near-pathological specifications. She uses these models to create moulds, from which the final sculptures are cast in materials such as plaster, polyester and aluminium. Many are made as editions, meaning that multiple casts are taken from one mould.[5] For the duration of some of her exhibitions, Fritsch has made her multiples available for sale at the respective museums.




Marco Brambilla takes you to hell (and heaven, too)

June 24, 2009 · Print This Article

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I wanted to post about Marco Brambilla’s elevator installation at The Standard hotel in NYC a couple of weeks ago, but all the YouTube links looked super-crappy and stuttery on my relatively old iBook G4. A few days ago Lynn Becker of ArchitectureChicago Plus posted a link to Motionographer, which has a large-scale, gorgeous, smooth-running version of the video on its site. So on the off chance some of you might not have seen Becker’s post (or visited her fantastic blog, which is a daily read for me), I’m posting the link again here (it can’t be embedded, so click on the Motionographer link above).

Brambilla’s installation consists of footage sampled from hundreds of mainstream and avant-garde films and assembled into a vertical photomontage representing a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven viewed while hotel guests travel up and down the elevator. Read more about it, and see the piece itself, on the Motionographer website. It’s pretty incredible.

Thanks again ArchitectureChicago!




Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton Collaborate in Top Secret Project for Deste Foundation

June 15, 2009 · Print This Article

Hmm, this is an unexpected pairing. Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton are collaborating on “Blood of Two,” an installation to inaugurate the Deste Foundation‘s new location on the Greek island of Hydra.  It has its opening tomorrow. From the Deste website:

“Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton will present a site–specific installation for the inaugural exhibition held in the island’s slaughterhouse, a mysterious yet evocative location which will work as the new project space of the DESTE Foundation. The components of the installation will be realized together on-site and will be exhibited afterwards as one work. The exhibition marks the first occasion in which Barney or Peyton have collaborated.

Details of the project are being kept completely under wraps until the unveiling/opening, which of course is the exact right type of button to push with me — now I can’t wait to see pictures of it, which is all I’ll be able to get since my summer plans this year unfortunately don’t include a trip to Greece. Here’s the one picture that’s been released:

203-wo-hs-barney&peyton

Oh wait–now, if I was a Cremaster Fanatic, perhaps I would have known that Peyton and Barney are friends. So maybe this pairing is not so unlikely after all? (Actually, I AM a big fan of Barney’s Cremaster cycle, just not a “fanatic.”)




Dave Hullfish Bailey at The Suburban

March 20, 2009 · Print This Article

Sometime over the weekend, as I was pouring coffee beans into a canister, I happened to read on the package that proceeds from the coffee had been used to fund a library. Pretty cool, I thought; but then in my cynical way, I began to speculate about just what kind of structure this library actually was, how big, how many books, and what, exactly, constituted a library in the minds of the coffee bean distributors. Maybe their library was more like a bookmobile, or maybe it was just a partitioned section of a large hut somewhere far away, with a few piles of donated paperbacks stacked haphazardly on a couple of wooden stools. At any rate, when I came across the L.A.-based artist Dave Hullfish Bailey’s images of the Lizard Tree Library in Slab City, California (not far from Imperial City), my first thought was, aha–here’s the kind of library that coffee money might have funded.

Dave Hullfish Bailey, Working approximation of a conventional form, re-determined by prevailing conditions (first version: Noritsu JPEG scans; Xerox model 250; SKU # 866095/remaindered stock), 2008

Dave Hullfish Bailey, Working approximation of a conventional form, re-determined by prevailing conditions (first version: Noritsu JPEG scans; Xerox model 250; SKU # 866095/remaindered stock), 2008

Bailey’s installations converge with social historiography and land use studies in their exploration of alternative models of community and urban planning. Slab City, a squatter and R.V. community built over an old U.S. military base, provides a case study that, in his exhibition at The Suburban, Bailey has approached in a more or less documentary fashion.  A series of 15 framed photocopied images of the Slab City library have been installed sequentially along the gallery’s four walls. Each image presents a view of the library from a slightly different vantage point that corresponds to the photographer’s path around the perimeter. I didn’t know about Slab City before encountering these images, but a little Internet scouring brought up a few useful websites, particularly this one.  Slab City’s inhabitants would probably not describe themselves as “squatters,” though none pay rent. They’ve built the physical structures that house this community from the ground up, along with the social institutions or “clubs” that bring residents together. The library appears to be one of several sacred spaces here that have been constructed entirely by human hands, in this case by a woman named Rosalie who died in 2003.  It’s a quiet place where people can borrow books without I.D. cards, read on the patio, or retreat to in the middle of the night when insomnia hits.

Bailey is interested in the ways that idealism shapes space concretely and ideologically, as when, for example, people from very different backgrounds come together in the wake of hurricanes or riots to create ad hoc spaces of refuge and community support. These chaotic moments have the potential to transform utopian impulses into pragmatic solutions. In Slab City, ordinary folks have put their highest aspirations of self and community to the test. Baileys’ trajectory around the Slab City library circumscribes a Utopia twice removed; one that looks and feel a lot more down-to-earth than we, or its residents for that matter, may have previously imagined.