My post about the Just Listening CD release reminded me that I was in Cork not so long ago for another launch event, also celebrating a sound art publication by Farpoint Recordings. Until now I've neglected to write about it here, likely because of that annoying Facebook entity. (Items I write about there I might forget to write about here.)
It is a timely matter again, since Saturday saw the Dublin launch of Strange Attractor at the RHA Gallery. Since I couldn't be in two places at the same time I missed out on Dublin, so these photos here of the Cork launch (Saturday 12 November 2011 in the Crawford Art Gallery) must suffice. Read on for an overview of the book and DVD.
Strange Attractor was a durational project initiated by Anthony Kelly, David Stalling, Danny McCarthy, Irene Murphy and Mick O'Shea in November 2010. It ran as a residency at the Crawford Gallery, curated by Dawn Williams. The exhibition was comprised, in a refreshingly unorthodox fashion, of two galleries of visual art (some of these being the traces of past performances) and a series of sonic events. Throughout the first four months of 2011 various artists -- international and local, famous and not -- were invited to improvise with the core group. Over this period certain structures unfolded, or perhaps even dissipated.
I was honoured to be one of those artists, and so on Wednesday 20 April played for an hour in the beautiful upstairs gallery at Crawford, a place of natural wood and light, non-parallel lines and random seating. That gig I documented in this blog post and furthermore in a recording I have available on SoundCloud. (Perhaps you'd like to listen to that as you continue reading?)
Now, the project has been catalogued in a lovely tactile book, full of photographs by Patricia Klich. There are essays by some of the participants (David Toop, Steve Roden, Steven Vitiello, etc.) but no analysis from the core performers. In fact, O'Shea has described their communal sonic acts as "conversation without words". From this I judge their silence on the linguistic front to be a deliberate strategy in order to keep open various non-linguistic opportunities. Certainly there was no discussion before I joined them for an improvised session. And none after, for that matter.
The catalogue also includes a rather extensive DVD. It's rather easy to get lost in all the material here, and the "best" tracks are not the most obvious, so let me provide a guide. First, there are stereo audio recordings of some of the performances, including the original "system" and the guest sessions with David Toop, Stephen Vitiello, Rhodri Davies, Alessandro Bosetti, Steve Roden and Jed Spear. These range from nine to twenty minutes in length, and so provide an extensive body of work. "Bonus" pieces include "Spectrosonic Drawing" (13:58) by Mick O'Shea and "Hive 1-3" (9:19) by Anthony Kelly and David Stalling.
Secondly, there is the video portion of the DVD. Maciek Klich's "Strange Attractor Documentary" (30:39) consists of interviews with the core group plus Dawn Williams, Lee Patterson and Alessandro Bosetti, inter-cut with performance footage. There is a raw video of the David Toop and Mary Nunan set (16:18) and a similarly rough look at Stalling and Kelly's television installation "Further Into A Place" (2:54). "Remote Camera" (5:24) documents Irene Murphy's performative sculptures from a viewpoint that is sometimes her own and sometimes not.
Best of the lot is Laura Vitale's "Performance with Lee Patterson" (10:11). Carefully edited so as not to disrupt the listening experience, this video focuses on some of the sound-making events that take place in a "typical" Strange Attractor. The excellent sound quality (the best of the bunch) makes it easier to link visual cause with acoustic effect. The lack of words or any framing device is not a limitation.
Thirdly, the CD contains a great number of photographs by Patricia Klich, edited together into video montages for each particular performance. Given that these are silent I am not sure who might sit through almost an hour (!) of stills. It's certainly not worth it to find my dour visage at the beginning of the "Lunchtime Attractors" set. Even when I'm having fun, the level of concentration sets my face most grimly!
"Pinhole Photography" (2:48) by Harry Moore, a look at O'Shea's poster designs (1:18) and a close examination of Mark Hall-Patch's excellent "A Chronology of Cork Sonology" poster (2:52) complete the DVD. Though I am sure I have forgotten something other than Danny McCarthy's "Found Sound (Lost At Sea)" which, near as I can tell, is exactly seven minutes of silence.
With over two hours of music, plus all the other features, it's hard to imagine better value for money. Excepting, of course, for the host of free concerts that spawned this volume in the first place. If you missed them, do keep an ear out for what this gang does next. One thing is certain: they are unlikely to be standing still.