Brian Droitcour
Since 2008
Works in BROOKLYN, New York United States of America

BIO
Rhizome curatorial fellow September 2008 - April 2009, staff writer April 2009 - December 2011, poetry editor January 2012 - 20??

Mix It Up


Video: Matthew Ostrowski, Atopia, 2004

Mixology, the annual festival curated by the new music and new media organization Roulette, got off to a strong start last week with opening night performances by Pamela Z and Elliott Sharp, presented in collaboration with Harvestworks. Pamela Z demonstrated her use of gesture to control sound, which she produces with her own operatic voice as well as electronically. Elliott Sharp was a one-man noise band, playing both an amplified saxophone and a keyboard-based instrument while manipulating both on his laptop. The night ended with an improvised duet, in which Pamela Z played her iPhone like an ocarina.

Performances continued through the weekend and will resume tonight. Tomorrow’s program features Matthew Ostrowski, who will pick up themes of gesture and sampling with a new work titled “Patterns of Changing Light.” Mixology runs through May 30, concluding with a performance by downtown stalwart David Rosenbloom, whose piece Sound and Light I continues his thirty-year-long exploration of dense sonic textures with a more recent integration of video as the basis for an evolving score. The full program for the rest of Mixology can be found on Roulette’s calendar.

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School Day


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Image: Mike Rosenthal, The Traveling Sound Museum, 2009

The spring show of ITP, New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, which was open to the public last Sunday and Monday, was a like science fair, with students eager to show the results of their projects, and also like a job fair, with middle-aged men in suits prowling for fresh-faced innovators. There’s an atmosphere of authentic creative exploration surrounding the projects displayed, but more often than not the starting point is a vaguely corporate-sounding buzzword: Sustainability! Wearable technologies! Arduino! Connecting to nature was a particularly hot topic, with variations on it ranging from urban botany—like the iPhone app Twigster that helps users identify species of plant life they encounter in parks—to the New-Age crunch of Root Boots, bark-covered footwear that encourages the wearer to stand still and contemplate nature by providing pleasant, low-frequency vibrations when at rest and making scary uprooting sounds when lifted. Voice from the Past also followed the trend of adapting technology to slow the pace of life down; the program lets callers leave a voice message and designate a time in the near or distant future when the recipient will be notified of it. The inverse of that was the whimsical Traveling Sound Museum, with sounds of events like the 1293 sacking of Jaisalmer by the emperor Ala-ud-din Khilji and the 1835 arrival of European explorers in Galapagos in mason jars displayed on an antique wooden cart. (The creator cagily batted away questions about what the burlap in the jars was hiding, and where they “really” came from.) Other projects let computers and audience share the credit for art-making. The “cobots” ShadowBot and SoundBot moved in response to environmental light or noise, respectively, to create messy, Spirogram-like doodles. With the heavy crowds at the ...

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Positive Vibes


Video: Lucky Dragons at Pehr Space, August 2008

Any set has begin and end, but the Lucky Dragons played that down in a New York appearance last Saturday; they switched on some recorded sounds as the audience was taking seats, and demonstrated their equipment and chatted after the music’s long, slow fadeout. The structure suits the group’s hippie philosophy that doesn’t assign prominence to any musical moments, but treats all sounds (and people) equally. They also tried to erase borders between performer and audience by encouraging listeners to be mobile, approach the instruments, and improvise, although the narrow length of The Stone, crammed with folding chairs, made it tough for anyone past the two front rows to join in. Lucky Dragons stalwarts Luke Fishbeck and Sarah Andersen were joined by drummer Ches Smith and guitarist Grey Gersten, the curator of The Stone’s program this month.

Once everyone was settled in place, Smith and Gersten entered lightly, playing inside the framework of the electronic pulse already hovering in the venue. Gersten struck and dampened his instrument’s strings percussively, rather than playing melodies. Over time the drums and guitar settled into a hazy backdrop for electronic, pentatonic glissandos emanating from Fishbeck and Andersen’s hacked instruments. Later on they handed audience members a short-circuited wire—wrapped in a colorful knit cozy for safety—that played triadic chords when touched, varying volume according to intensity of squeezes and the amount of grounding (Fader recorded a demonstration of it). The accidental harmonies of that cord, like most of the sonorities in the Lucky Dragons’ music, seems to skip across the overtone series, as if the electronic tool is just picking up the natural vibrations hanging in the air. It could be the signature instrument in their wired drum circle ...

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Performance Anxiety


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Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, The Abboutthing (in the air), 2009 (Image Courtesy of Elizabeth Dee)

Few things are farther from the cool white walls of Chelsea than the anxieties and values of teenage suburbia, which is probably why Ryan Trecartin’s videos about them, untranslated into the art world’s dominant dialect of aloof criticality, looked so exotic and aroused so much excitement when he made his gallery debut here a year and a half ago. Trecartin’s work grows out of YouTube rants, Myspace intros, and other random homemade shorts , and while grotesque histrionics set his videos apart from the average upload, he keeps them close to their sources of inspiration by addressing issues of popularity, independence, and social approval, and shooting them in spacious beige interiors that approximate the bedroom of the regular webcam-wielding kid. Lizzie Fitch, who has collaborated with Trecartin on his videos as an actress and set designer, makes installations based on the same bland domestic environment, using furniture and appliances from big-box stores. Trecartin and Fitch’s current video-free exhibition at Elizabeth Dee, the first time they’ve had a double billing at the New York gallery, lies closer to Fitch’s territory than Trecartin’s, and the calculated result doesn’t indicate a promising direction for either artist to take.

Trecartin and Fitch use the gallery’s two rooms to simulate the interior and exterior of a suburban home, but they’ve switched the order of the front and back so that the viewer becomes an intruder, passing through the backyard before entering the living room. The first installation, The Aboutthing (in the air), suggests a good time that ended in disaster. Rubbermaid boxes bobbing in an above-ground pool-- a lowbrow luxury, not as fancy as an inground pool -- contain the residue ...

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Click Through This


Image: Becket Bowes, Alan Turing, 2009

Hypertext fiction was proclaimed at its inception as the literary genre of the future, but now it already feels like a relic of the past. Ironically, nineteen years after a software company published the first hypertext story, Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, fast internet connections and popular reference sites have made habits of fragmentary, non-linear reading common enough to prepare a wide audience for tackling hypertext fiction (who clicked on the link above before finishing this sentence?), but hardly any artists and writers are making serious attempts at it. Becket Bowes is one exception. His project [sic]ipedia, conceived for and developed during SculptureCenter’s "In Practice” program, takes the form of an evocative description of an arcane curio cabinet, with backstories of the items it contains.

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Image: Becket Bowes, Social Isolate Club, 2009 (Installation View at SculptureCenter)

Bowes’ installation in the back of SculptureCenter’s basement was composed of those items—two Ships of Theseus, a Comfortable Chair, a simulation of Alan Turing’s death mask and a model of his bust spinning on a computer monitor, to name a few. [sic]ipedia began as a simple site, with a gray sphere and blank prompt in a stripped-down variation on Wikipedia’s home page. But over the course of the “In Practice” exhibition’s run at SculptureCenter, Bowes gathered his friends—members of the Social Isolate Club, or SIC—inside his installation, to talk out the histories and significance of the objects there. At each meeting, Bowes would take notes in composition books, and then convert the notes into pages on [sic]ipedia. Taken together, [sic]ipedia (the web site) and Social Isolate Club (the installation) suggested parallels between reading hypertext and viewing an installation: both give the viewer a degree of autonomy in ...

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