Saturday, July 10, 2010

Latin American Art Fair, Miami. 2010

On clicks+cuts by Philip Sherburne

Rhythm is texture writ large, peaks and valleys turned to pulse. Texture is rhythm rendered microscopic: (ir)regularity encoded and impressed upon the surface of sound. Where these two break and cleave apart, the click: smooth-faced, one-dimensional, textureless and out of time. The atomic test of sound's durability; a black hole like a tiny diamond.

The click is remainder, the bit spit out of the break.The indigestible leftover that code won't touch. Cousin to the glitch, the click sounds the alarm. It alerts the listener to error. The motor fails, the disk spins down, and against pained silence the resounds only the machinic hack of the click. It is the sound of impatience at technology's betrayal,fingernails tapped on the table while waiting to reboot. It is the drumming against the thrum of too much information.

Distances, for the military, are measured in clicks. As metaphor, the click is multifaceted and multifarious- it speaks volumes. An over determined word a the crux of so many vocabularies: of clocks, Glocks, safe crackers.

The "click" is onomatopoetic, and thus portable across languages; it is metaphor and metonym at once, a borrowed approximation for a non-sound that has swelled into something larger. Connect the dots, and what do you have? A new pointillism: an international network, a growing linkage of artists all in pursuit of different agendas, different intentions, different ends. The click is the hub at the center of all these nodes (even if it's artificial, the click-as-affect). The click -like this clique-of-click- itself is an accident, an accidental collision of styles and intents, noise attracted to noise and static seeking static.

What is it about this sound? The word approximates the music's palette, whether the crackling emptiness of Mikael Stravosand or the gray-scalefizz of Pan Sonic. Click, tick, glitch - brittle words for data hiccups. Yet it's an empty syllable, an after description, a slippery tag that won't quite fix. What's in a name? In this case, everything and nothing, as with "glitch," also almost onomatopoetic, a staple term for journalists ever since a CD was made out of the sound of skipping CDs, a word that circulates like a quasi-virus, unbidden. It has someuse-value, and yet it imposes a limit. Or does it?

This is not a genre but a movement, a shared inclination of perhaps a disinclination; a collective approach to discontinuity. It is not a subgenre, even- at least, not in the way that House, Techno, Electro are subgenres. It is a movement without goal or direction (not even fractal - another popular conceit - for if it turns inward on one release, emphasizing a single tone, say, or magnifying a single recycled element, on the next it may turn outward: distressing an R & B sample with a sandpapery assault, perhaps, or introducing a click-virus into the seemingly robust body of the pop song. It is rootless - equally free from, equally at home in club, home, headphones, gallery. It is a music of potentials: scattering clicks as if sowing seeds. It can be slippery, like one of Larry Bell's glass cubes but reflecting nothing back - no intent, no expression, no identity.

Errors and accidents crystallize. The pearl is an error, a glitch in response to impurity. The error is the aura. Just as Hip Hop records scratched vinyl to lend an aura of authenticity, the click creates a kind of anti-aura, lending a pearl finish to failure. Crucially, where electronic music (from the underground to the pop charts) is obsessed with control, the click steps in to privileged limits. Nothing new, certainly, since John Cage articulated a philosophy of Chance, but in the context of the computer age, where Moore's Law dares musicians to max out their processors and perfection is always just a compile away, the click cuts through the asymptote ideal. To create click-music is to harness failure, whether the crackling of the patch cord or the system-crash in mid-sample. The click redirects the limit-curve and makes it the new baseline against which subsequent successes are measured. Perhaps the limitation is not in the hardware or software, but in the listener, whose ears are not attuned to rhythms cloaked in static. Or perhaps the failure cuts in during playback as speakers shudder against overload, putting up a crackling argument of their own.

Music achieves a new virtuality thanks to the click, a second order of abstraction. Because if pop and dance music aim at the perfect simulation of the Real by electronic means, then clicktech, microhouse,cutfunk graft a secondary structure onto the first - not imitative or hyper real, but substitutive, implied, made clear by context alone; a compressed millisecond of static stands in for the hi-hat, recognizable as such because that's where the hi-hat would have been.

And in still another order of abstraction, click sounds are created, sampled, and edited by visual reference alone. The graphic scores of John Cage and Cornelius Cardew have been shrunken and condensed - where once there were shapes and lines and coded markings to be translated and read into musical expositions, the graphical has been parsed down to the atomic level, to a millisecond-long game of connect-the-dots, a score conducted bit by bit and executed in a flash.

Music is the seam between hearing and not hearing; for everything revealed there is something else occluded. Often the very process of revealing cloaks that other thing. It is like a blueprint with all the text written in another alphabet, or a text printed on a substance so intractable that it slips from your fingers the moment you hold it up for inspection.

And if music is this seam - or this seeming - then the click is perfect reduction: the blip that appears and obliterates. It is, and is not, allied with minimalism. Clickandcuts courts the minimal, flirts with absence, bats eyelashes to the sound of rushing air, coyly repetitive. But behind this screen, beneath the gridded white expanse, a deeper order of complexity disrupts. A seismic pressure bends straight lines; signal begets noise and noise begets silence. The crack of the click fills the air, to the popping of ears.

Through the wooden slats, light and a city bubble beyond

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

swim everyday, anyway you can

Float/Switzerland/June 2010

From the University of Puerto Rico

Presentation Talk for Opening at Casa Aboy/April 2009

Presentation Talk for Opening at Casa Aboy/April 2009

When a decision was made to exhibit my work from New Orleans, I received my share of,

What are you, nuts? You’re going to edit thousands of images down to 30, spend energy and time, personal funds on a tragic photographic essay, during a sad chapter in American history, that occurred almost 4 years ago, a time during which our president showed not one iota of real care or diplomatic tact, an exhibition of work on an island that can’t even take care of its own people during an economic-almost-depression? Who needs that?

In short, yes and who needs that? We all do, especially now.

Before coming up with the above quick answers I did go back to revisit what initially inspired the work. My third trip to New Orleans will be well combined with the efforts and achievements being made by an agency that is working with the children of the city called: New Orleans Outreach.

During the revisiting process I did ask myself what I hoped to achieve with the more than 3000 photographs taken on two separate trips to Louisiana in 2006 and 2007. One of the first questions was, what can I do differently with my visual data stash? What can I possibly bring home with me that countless and gifted photographers didn’t already pillage and store on their Lexar cards? Books on the Katrina disaster have been published, beautiful books that sold within the careful structures of highly publicized gallery exhibitions. Making captivating photographs in New Orleans post-Katrina was easy. There was enough color and twisted texture, messed up disaster wreckage everywhere we looked, enough to go around.

A car hovered over a swimming pool, a 16 wheeler lay dead on its side in the middle of a desolate and destroyed landscape, the residual stockpile from private lives were stacked before abandoned homes that often contained within them a horizontal line 11 feet from the floor where the water level had settled for weeks. The stench, still heavy and clinging to dripping clusters of peeling paint, as one moved from room to room the setting pretended the disguise of a contemporary architectural dig. The calendars, all open to August 2005, some still hanging on the walls, begged verification of this particular disaster; paper thin witnesses to a flooding, an evacuation and death. The sludge slowly receded and made room for various forms of mold. Wheelbarrows and windows taped and broken, traffic lights and signage pushed flat against the earth or missing altogether, fell under the notebook category of Visual Everyday and Normal. Everything was out the window, the baby, the bathwater and the kitchen sink.

This type of photojournalism only becomes interesting if it is organized and displayed to raise consciousness and funds for people who gave their lives, lost their lives and continue to live and give despite and in spite of devastating circumstances. Trying like hell every day on top of it all, New Orleanians worked very hard to get their children to school and keep their families safe, healthy and together; a full days labor, day after day. Many families could not bear the weight. They had been relocated all over the country. Mothers and fathers split, many elderly died from the stressful circumstances. How many of us are blessed with good fortune and even that small basic list of family fundamentals can be challenging on an average and good day? Throw in a little treacherous hurricane, breaking levee system, massive flooding, a public humiliation as the nation watched the carpet and the curtain pulled simultaneously and ask yourself, how far would your spirits have taken you, for how long would your optimism and proud resiliency have kicked in and held? Or do you think you may have just emotionally tanked and moved on, never to return to your roots?

But they did come home. New Orleanians are back on their turf. Music filled rooms and crawfish boils are all over town. New Orleans is all about water? Water under the bridge. like water off a ducks back, let it roll, wash, let it slide? I think they will always remember the floods, but maybe it’s a lesson to go on living in a place even when it’s hard, near impossible for some. Maybe that drive homeward, even if Home is flooding, happens when the place where you’ve lived for so long is worth it. There is an emotional and creative investment this town has made in its place, right where it is. I understand the passion for place, but now the question has to be asked:

Do we have the right to live below the water line?

Can the citizens of a city or state and the local and national governing bodies afford to protect lives in areas that will certainly flood again and again? Does the United States, the Netherlands or any coastal community in the world have the funds to adequately protect the citizens that continue to live in the wet and future flooded lands? Is there a way to live differently in areas where the water level is rising? Is eco-friendly construction enough? Are floating homes the only viable solution? How will design work? Will we congest our lakes and rivers with single-family homes and one day awake to the vanished beauty of a once and past tranquil oasis? Can we exchange acquired and used water space for an equal measurement of land returned to near Garden of Eden condition? What type of solutions can we afford to maintain?

It was recently brought to my attention that beyond the dramatic and biblical magnitude of floods there are obviously other kinds of danger zones all over the world related to fires and earthquakes, etc. This photo essay is but ONE story, one I chose. It was delivered to me as I sat at a table with a dear friend from New Orleans and he brought the reality of Katrina in his city, home. During that meal, the devastation was made real, effectively resounded in my desire to give beyond the confines of my everyday life, and I announced then and there, I was going to gut houses, I was going to take photos, I was going to make those photos serve a purpose. And I did. And I’m going back for follow through on my third trip this April. The intent of this exhibition is not to highlight an exceptional moment or disaster “type” or special efforts made by one person. The purpose of this exhibition is two fold. First, this work is asking you, how we will live and build in accordance to nature’s REALITY, nature’s shift and change and adaptation, nature’s response to our former, tired and boring ways of living wastefully. What will be the new dream home? Gone are the days of personal wealth fantasy manifestations of pomp and extreme ego driven waste and construction. Basically, get real, get elegant, get smart, get green, get reusable, and get going. The second driving question behind this project asks
what cause you will choose to support and give your time and energy to beyond your children, your aging parents and your job. Will you pick up a shovel, a camera, a pen and check, will you help doctors or relief workers, will you paint a house? If you are able bodied and minded, watching the news with a degree of passion and heartfelt concern for your fellow individual is not enough. If you are volunteering already, thank you. If you are a college student wondering what to do with your spring break, consider volunteer work as an option. It feels good and looks great on your bio.

Solid photojournalism inspires dialogue of the round table sort. So I invite you to let it begin this evening. Discuss your concerns for your island. Inform yourselves, find out the facts and see if there is room for your opinion in the newspapers, on the radio, in your classrooms. The problems borne from rising water levels aren’t packing a suitcase and moving on. They will stay right where you live and they will make themselves known. For now, these guests are still somewhat in disguise but soon your children will see evidence of coastal shifts between land and water lines. What will your community’s response to the inevitable environmental changes look like? How will we manifest our concerns and proactive solutions?

Let me see an exhibition on:

green/considerate/considered/eco-intelligent and cost-effective, user-friendly home designs for Puerto Rico and the specific conditions found on this island
by the art, architectural, design programs from all over Puerto Rico and from some of the other nearby islands. I want to see solar panels and wind harnesses and salt-resistant, durable but light materials that let in the air and the light.

Thank you for taking the time to come to this exhibition. It is a delight to share my work and receive feedback. It is a pleasure to see Casa Aboy alive and full of light and idea exchange. Casa Aboy has a long and interesting, elegant history. I am very honored to be a part of it.

Thank you for coming this evening.
Un abrazo fuerte.