What’s more disorienting: the stereo separation of clipped and pinging synth sounds or the croaking, creaking voice that wanders into the mix after about a minute and a half of this track? Or could it be the effect of slapping those two together into one sputtering, neo-futurist whole? Whatever you may choose, know that this song—taken from an upcoming split cassette on DSCRMNT—put me off my lunch in a most delightful way. And that was before I got to the Perrey-Kingsley breakdown that closes the whole thing out.
The worlds of experimental music and art regularly shake hands, exchange fluids, and smoosh together ideas and disciplines. When it coheres, the results can be transcendental, and when it misses the mark completely, the ensuing mess can be both fascinating and repulsive. But that’s what makes events that bring the worlds together worth exploring and encouraging.
One such evening is coming this Friday, August 31st to Disjecta. Called Techne Rendered Dawn, this group art show was put together by Wyatt Schaffner, a musician and student who, as he says in the curator’s statement, is looking to “invite participation into an evening of augmented reality as integrated technology and interactive performance.”
To bring this to life, he has invited musicians Matt Carlson, The Tenses, Jason Urick, MSHR, and Future Death Toll into perform. As they do, they will be filmed by the people behind the ever-fascinating public access program Experimental 1/2 Hour, who will then manipulate the images and project them behind the performers. As well there will be screenings of video work by Liz Harris and Taryn Tomasello, and a video/audio installation from John Rau and Olivia Erlanger that play to the overall theme of the evening.
Schaffner was kind enough to get on the phone with me this past weekend to talk about this art project, teasing out some of his grander ideas, especially when it comes to using ever part of the Disjecta space as part of the show.
What is the idea behind this event?
It really started by participating and observing and asking questions, and seeing how this digital technological culture is really imprinted on a lot of the city’s musicians and artists. You have Experimental 1/2 Hour who fuse those separate realms together in a form of augmented reality. When I saw Experimental 1/2 Hour videos, these live performances with visuals that aren’t meant to distract you. It’s the performers enacting themselves in time and space. A mirror reflection of that whole dynamic. Seeing MSHR for the first time really hit home as well; body and motion becomes sound and light as an envelope for people to enter in. Anyone can step into it. They are masters of that craft. I’ve never seen a better example of an insulation project and ethos. I was also thinking about our relationships with machines and facing the dualities that exist between man and machine, and how we are attempting to create an incredibly inclusive virtual reality, disassociating the body in alternate spaces of being.
How did you then go about curating the evening?
I’m fortunate to have co-created the event with the people behind Experimental 1/2 Hour. Once I had a thesis framework in mind, they helped give it more depth and vision. We wanted to see video as a collective group activity by people that are notable musicians and video artists here. And I always had a notion of being a performative element.
How much of the space at Disjecta are you utilizing for this event?
All of it. I’ve worked there for a year, and this is one of the few times I can think in which the entire space is empty and open to the public. It being a group show, having all that space available had to be the most natural option. To just have one or two elements there would limit the scope of this project.
Do you then envision things going on at the same time or are you scheduling things out in some way?
There’s definitely going to be a schedule. I’m pretty sure things are going to go one by one. Projections may be going all the time. And some illustrative art work. The idea is people are going to be able to enter all the different spaces. The environment really encourages a flow walking from room to room.
As far as I can suss out, the title of this track (taken from a new Matt Carlson solo release about to arrive on NNA Tapes) comes from Nox, a book-length poem written by Anne Carson following the death of her brother. The idea of the phrase concerns how people collect and save things (children’s drawings, photographs) as a way of both archiving their history and avoiding the thoughts that oblivion awaits all of us when we die. We can hold on to those memories, true, but we also seem to require physical memorabilia to keep our demise at bay.
A perhaps dour thought for a track that doesn’t feel sad at all. In fact, this is one of the lightest, most joyful things that I’ve heard Carlson do in his solo work. Is this is his way of celebrating the now? Of paying homage to the beauty of life and of the moment even when we know in the back of our heads that time slips through our fingers during our every waking moment? If so, it works wonderfully. It’s buoyant and delectable, a soundtrack for watching humid summer days slowly turn into the slight chill of fall.