At the intersection of time and space

Spotlights 27.09.2022

" I We Them All" is the title of the exhibition that the American artist Jason Glasser presents until November at the Musée du Saut du Tarn and that, like the monosyllabic beats of an electro composition, resonates adequately with the eclectic ambitions of the programming of the riverrun festival that proposes to satisfy my / our / their / all curiosities, offering to listen to the plurality of experimental music, experimental music should we say. From the events related to Jason Glasser, Alvin Lucier and Abdessamad El Montassir, this new edition is the opportunity to review some synergistic interactions between experimental music and visual culture in general.

If experimental music is a genre whose contours are still not fixed, a territory with aesthetic, sociological and political borders in constant redefinition and whose terminological approximation makes its reality fascinating, rich and open, it maintains, since its crystallization in the 1950s at the Black Mountain College as David Sanson recalls it in his lighting, relations always more fertile with the visual arts. The main reason of this alliance which lasts is perhaps that the contemporary art escapes, him also, from a strict and homogenizing definition, and, as the experimental music, appropriates the instituted disciplines to better twist them and test their limits.

Sampling in technicolor 

Born in 1968 on the East Coast of the United States, Jason Glasser naturally benefited from the multidisciplinary ecosystem of which Andy Warhol's Silver Factory was the vector and main agent in New York from the 1960s onwards, the birthplace of Lou Reed's Velvet Underground, and then above all the ultimate, even unsurpassable reference model in the 1980s. In 1991, he co-founded the independent rock band Clem Snide, named after a character invented by the queer poet and junkie William S. Burroughs, a key figure in the Americanunderground, and since 1992 has used the avatar Fruitkey for his musical projects in exhibition spaces. Following Burroughs, he started using the plastic method of collage or cut-up to forge an intuitive musical writing, with a Do it yourself aesthetic, made from sampling heterogeneous elements that he records on cassettes for which he also designs the visuals, inspired by the rock record covers of T. Rex or Steve Miller.
Working in parallel with drawing, painting, graphic design, photography, video and installation as well as performance and musical composition, he produces a diverse body of work whose subject matter is the American pop culture of the Wild West and cartoons, the inspiration given by artists David Hockney and Raymond Pettibon, and the actual format the energy of rock and an insatiable appetite for experimentation. In the context of the exhibition "Je Nous Eux Tout" and in line with his research, he has designed a set of cardboard works, pop and colorful, which emerge in space like comic strip bubbles and form a technicolor cinematographic set that the public is invited to cross. Accustomed to collaborations, whether with his musical groups or with the fashion designer Vanessa Seward for the clothing brand A.P.C., Jason Glasser joins, on the dual occasion of riverrun and his monographic exhibition at the museum, with Jérôme Lorichon, multi-instrumentalist musician (trumpet, drums, percussion, Wurlitzer electric piano, Buchla analog synthesizer), member of the bands Purr and The Berg Sans Nipple, member of the krautrock band Zombie Zombie, and composer for fashion, visual arts, cinema and even the circus The dialogue promises to be hybrid. 

I Am Sitting in A Room

Among the composers linked to the visual avant-garde, Alvin Lucier is an exemplary figure. Through his research in acoustic physics and psychoacoustics, his observations on the phenomena of propagation and interference and the natural properties of sound in space, the American composer, who died in 2021 and to whom riverrun pays tribute this year, is not only, considered as one of the most influential of the second half of the XXth century, not to say cult among the young contemporary guard (Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O'Malley or Jim O'Rourke), but also, since his first experiments, by the historians of art and forms, as a real thinker of the spatiality.
In the 1960s, Alvin Lucier was electrified by Music Walk with Dancers, the concert by John Cage and David Tudor accompanied by the choreography of Merce Cunningham and Carolyn Brown at the Fenice in Venice, whose finale, mixing Mozart, the blues, and a recording of a speech on peace by Pope John XXIII, ended with the shocked screams of the audience. The performance impressed him to the point of preventing him from composing for a year, but opened up perspectives on the exploration of the nature of sound, its perception and especially its spatiality. From then on, Alvin Lucier's research took an interdisciplinary turn that articulated music, hard sciences, installations and performative practices, and his career began to be marked by collaborations with the theater and the visual arts.
To cite just two high-profile examples: in 1994, he composed the music for Robert Wilson's Skin, Meat, Bone; and in 2004, he created the sound installation Six Resonant Points Along A Curved Wall for a monumental sculpture by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. However, it is with the non-collaborative piece for voice and analog sound delay system, I Am Sitting In A Room (1969), which has become an emblem of his work, that Alvin Lucier masterfully accomplishes this utopian fusion of the arts of time and space, creating a "listening experience that consists of surveying the acoustical portrait of a space, of straining one's ear towards the behavior of sounds in the atmosphere, towards a music that is, so to speak, self-created" (Marcella Lista).

Al Amakine

In its 2022 program, riverrun also proposes Al Amakinea transversal and resolutely contemporary dialogue between the electro composer Matthieu Guillin and the artist Abdessamad El Montassir on the occasion of his monographic exhibition at the Maison Salvan. Born in 1989 in Boudjour, Abdessamad El Montassir draws an art and research project that meticulously reports, through a set of photographs and a sound piece, stories, micro-histories and oral testimonies latent in the Sahara in southern Morocco, escaping the official written history, a "cartography of invisible lives" according to the expression of the political scientist Françoise Vergès.
Art and experimental music thus meet, on the occasion of Matthieu Guillin and Abdessamad El Montassir's dialogue, in a territory that is neither pop nor formal, but geographical and political, giving voice to those who have none in the official narrative.

Beyond the fascination for the figures of independent rock and the inventions of modernism, it is, perhaps, at this intersection, both ethical and aesthetic, that the alliance of visual arts and experimental music in contemporary creation could most accurately reside.
Listening to music is one thing; watching it is another. And if precisely the experimental music of today succeeded in the challenge, called of the wishes of all the avant-gardes since Marcel Duchamp's Erratum musical (1913), to finally reconcile the sound and the image, the arts of time and those of space, to bridge disciplines while abolishing them, to fulfill a transdisciplinary dream, by offering to listen and to see to the public inclusive and plural narratives which do not only satisfy their curiosity but modify their perspective on the world? Investigation at riverrun.

Tristan Bera 

Discover the concert of Jason Glasser and Jérôme Lorichon on October 2 at 5pm at the Saut du Tarn Museum and the performance of Matthieu Guillin at the Maison Salvan on October 6 at 8:30pm. Finally, on the program, Alvin Lucier and the Bozzini Quartet, October 8.

Photos © Pierre Gondard
Photos © Abdessamad El Montassir
Photos © Phœbé Meyer


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