The Sound of Hard Drives: Jin Sangtae

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It's ironic that Jin Sangtae learned computer repair working at a mammoth South Korean tech market, since he eventually applied those skills to creatively destroying electronics. One of Seoul's most important audio artists, Jin Sangtae creates glitched noise improvisations by manipulating exposed computer hard drive parts.

Jin produces his initial signal in Clanger Theremin, a digital theremin available as freeware designed for use on PDA devices. Controlling pitch, volume and modular effects with a stylus, Jin leads the signal through several exposed computer hard drives, each fed to a separate track on a mixer, a process that methodically undermines his instrument.

Jin's impressive level of control over hardware errors does generally overshadow the theremin signal. A repeated series of staccatos resembling vinyl skips can be gradually protracted into a striated drone and then diminished into a paper-thin hiss. High-pitched sounds are emphasized; although harsh noise artists Otomo Yoshihide and Merzbow are certainly influences on Jin, his squealing feedback evokes scientific, mechanical imagery rather than a nihilistic anti-aesthetic. Although Park's improvisations are structureless, his decisions of which ideas to develop at length and which to briefly interject reward deep listening.

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Photo of Jin Sangtae's Exposed Disk Drives

Professionally, Jin Sangtae runs an audiovisual supplies distribution company, but Jin's office doubles as a small experimental performance space called Dotolim. Along with a few other venues in Seoul like Park Chang Soo's Houseconcert and Lee Han Joo's Yogiga gallery, Jin Sangtae's Dotolim concert has made him central to Seoul's experimental scene. While Houseconcert emphazises acoustic free jazz and Yogiga is a freeform sprawl, the circle of musicians surrounding Dotolim concerts is an erudite group of tech-savvy electroacoustic noise artists. The Balloon and Needle label, run by noise musicians Choi Joonyong and Hong Chulki ...

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Mister Modularity: Vittore Baroni, TRAX, And Network-As-Artwork

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The concept of networked art, or art which relies on exchange and collaboration across great geographical distances, has had a rich history prior to the Internet's first rumblings (and is now, fittingly enough, being archived, reappraised, and 'blogged' all over that same Internet.) Unlike the "one to many" presentational modes of the museum, shop, or gallery, networked art pieces were comparatively intimate "one to one" experiences, absorbed by one recipient at a time. Whether we call the collected efforts of this culture "mail art," "correspondence art," or simply "networking," its history is unlike other 'art historical' narratives, insofar as few people feel qualified to act as a spokesperson for the admittedly varied intentions of other networked artists: there is an almost universal reluctance to promote oneself as the "head" of anything in this culture. Especially on the European continent, where the most radical art collectives (e.g. Surrealism) have splintered into warring factions while under the mismanagement of paranoid leaders, no one is particularly eager to waste their otherwise productive time on internecine squabbling about whom deserves what title. So, in these situations, those who are just the most enthusiastic about their work, and its place in a larger creative milieu, end up becoming "ambassadors" by default.

One such ambassador, Vittore Baroni, is an individual who makes introductory biographical surveys like this one such a daunting task: his work spans every conceivable medium from rubber stamps and "artistamps" [mock-'official' postage stamps] and stickers to novel fashion items, and his tastes run the gamut from sublime atmospheric music to graphics exhibiting an exaggerated 'comic book' sense of humor and horror. Other than a general disregard for the taxonomy of art genres, the defining characteristic of Baroni's artwork is the nurturing of paradox and contradiction (he tells me that "[the term] 'paradoxical' is for me a great compliment, and a very positive adjective.") However, I may be getting ahead of myself here, since Baroni disavows the word "artist" entirely. In an early manifesto for his TRAX 'networking project,' co-founded with Piermario Ciani and Massimo Giacon, Baroni demurs "we are not artists, because art is a word that means everything and nothing," and proceeds to apply this to more clearly defined creative categories: "we are not musicians, but we create sounds. We are not actors, but every once in a while we get on a stage. We are not writers or publishing houses, but we can print our own writings." So what exactly is Baroni - and who are "we"?

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Plywood City (2008-2010) - Ujino Muneteru

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Ujino Muneteru transforms mechanical sounds into complex rhythms. Bored by the technical limits of his instruments, the guitarist and bassist experiments with new sounds. Different sounding bodies widen the spectrum of resonance; simple mechanical motors produce new tones. In particular domestic appliances, tools, and large machinery from the fifties to the seventies play a significant role here because of their mechanical simplicity and haptic palpability. Points of reference to the Japanese "Noise Music", a type of sound movement from the eighties rooted in John Cage and the Fluxus, can also be seen...

Plywood City refers to a part of Tokyo, in the vernacular, built from wood. Inspired by it, Muneteru constructs a model city, which is animated by kinetic objects and sound. The basis of the city is formed by art-transport crates, whose misappropriation cites socialist flagstone buildings with irony.

-- EXCERPTS FROM THE PRESS RELEASE FOR UJINO MUNETERU'S EXHIBITION "CROSSBAND" AT PSM GALLERY

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Max Neuhaus Performance and Screening at Dia:Beacon

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Max Neuhaus, drawing for Time Piece Beacon, 2005. © 2005 Max Neuhaus. Photo: Cathy Carver

In case you're up at Dia:Beacon this weekend, on October 31st at 2pm, in celebration of the new publication Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon, the museum will host a performance by composer David Shively of Max Neuhaus' early concert realizations of works by New York School composers such as Earle Brown, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. A screening of rare Neuhaus films and videos, like Phill Niblock's Max and documentation of Drive-in Music, will follow the performance. More info here.

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Pierre Gordeeff's The Built From Scratch Apparatus

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"The Built From Scratch Apparatus" is the general title for a series of projects by Pierre Gordeeff initiated in 2006. Composed of parts salvaged from the trash, yard sales and equipment purchased from bankrupt hospitals, schools and factories, Gordeeff's work has slowly evolved into an ornate sculpture and light show along with amplified moving parts fed into a mixer. This particular configuration of The Built-From-Scratch Apparatus, La Trombe, is performed alongside a duo with electronic musician Boris Jacobek on laptop and Bontempi keyboard.

PIERRE GORDEEFF - LA TROMBE / Juin 2008 / GRRRND GERLAND from Grrrnd Zero on Vimeo.

La Trombe was built specifically for a performance at Lyon, France's DIY venue Grrrndzero and this video was shot during one evening of La Trombe's installation period at the space in June of 2008. Although it seems that throughout most of this improvisation the sculpture is obscured in shadow, spectators could observe the well-lit sculpture before and after the performance.

Initially, Gordeeff's pieces were a less complex juxtaposition of drawings, sculpture and found objects, often depicting images of dystopian angst. By 2004, he began to make use of light and motion as his work became more performative. He eventually added sound by amplifying various moving portions of the sculpture and in his recent musical performances, the process of obscuring and illuminating portions of the sculpture "becomes more detailed than if I were [merely] drawing or sculpting it." When asked about the sculpture's transformation into an improvisatory musical instrument, Gordeeff observes, "I used sound and motion as a tool to overcome my habits of plastic composition. I followed the technical bias of all the items I could find [rather than my own aesthetic decisions] to end up with hybrid objects and shadows of elaborate graphic design. Sometimes sound inhabits space ...

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A Visit to Audio Visual Arts (AVA)

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Over the weekend I popped by Audio Visual Arts (AVA), a sound and media art space located a few blocks away from the New Museum, in the East Village.

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Founded by Justin Luke two years ago, the storefront space hosts a range of exhibitions and events, the majority of which relate to the experience of sound and listening. Artists and musicians alike have organized projects at the gallery, from a listening party for Glasser (Cameron Mesirow) to a sound installation by composer Alan Licht to an exhibition of paintings by the legendary guitarist John Fahey to an immersive stroboscopic light and sound installation by Nicedisc (Jeff Pash and Nick Phillips), to name a few. Justin and his brother have a recording studio in the basement of the building, and when the storefront above opened up, Justin decided to move in and start the gallery. AVA also doubles as his apartment, which is located in the back, and this aspect frees him up to be creative and take with risks with the programming, as the shows are not necessarily tied to profit like a regular gallery.

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Antoine Catala’s solo show "Topologies" just opened at AVA, and it features a single luminous, magnificently mind-bending sculpture titled HDDH. On display until November 4th, the work is comprised of two HD flat screen televisions connected by what the artist terms "a magic tube." The tube is seamlessly affixed to the surface of the screen, dramatically warping the continuous flow of images emanating from the television set. The audio signal from the TVs is projected both inside and outside the gallery, thunderously filling up the space. Catala uses broadcast television as the basic material for his hallucinatory sculptures, which heighten the artificiality and absurdity of television programming. HDDH seems like a natural evolution from ...

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Conjuring Sound: Arcana V: Music, Magic and Mysticism, Edited by John Zorn

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Music is analyzed and discussed using tools from many different fields - history, musicology, and sociology, to name a few. But words like “magical” and “mystical” rarely enter into the critical vocabulary when talking about music. Perhaps it’s because words like that tend to bring to mind the wilder, wackier reaches of the “New Age” section of the bookstore. Perhaps it’s also because “magic” and “mysticism” seem to imply that there are aspects of music that elude our critical grasp -- intangible qualities that escape the bounds of conventional analysis. For people who study music, this can be a hard pill to swallow. But musicians throughout the ages have openly referenced mysticism and mystical concepts in their work - a roster that includes everyone from composers like Alexander Scriabin and Olivier Messiaen to jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Albert Ayler to stadium rockers like Led Zeppelin.

A few months ago, after visiting the "Brion Gysin: Dreamachine" exhibition at the New Museum, I came across a dusty book in a small East Village bookshop titled Music, Mysticism and Magic: A Sourcebook, edited by Joscelyn Godwin. The book was published in 1986; the cover was purple and covered with symbols. The 61 brief chapters featured excerpts from the writings of figures ranging from Plato to the avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. I was intrigued.

After looking up more information on the book, I came across a new book with an oddly similar title: Music, Magic, and Mysticism, edited by John Zorn (Tzadik, 2010). It is the fifth installment of Zorn’s “Arcana” series of anthologies of critical writing on music, most of it written by musicians. The contributors to this volume are impressive: Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Yusef Lateef, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, David Toop, Gavin Bryars, and Alvin Curran, to name a few.

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Corpcore (2010) - Fatima Al Qadiri

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Open Seas (2010) - Mitch Trale

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Breathless (2008-Ongoing) - Jennie C. Jones

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Audiotape under UV glass, 16 x 20″ ea., 2008-2010 ongoing series. (from Kenny-G’s 1992 recording “Breathless”)

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