Saturday, November 05, 2005

2001 Sound Unseen - III


The final night of performances at 2001's Sound Unseen...

We had a day off after Oswald and Wobbly's show and I can't remember if I did anything at all that day. I'm sure there were a lot of great films to be watched at Sound Unseen and thats what we were all doing. We'd spent the afternoon prior to Monday evening's show, in the studio, recording a live mix, improvised together - but I'll save that story for the next post.

Wet Gate arrived the day of their show, and Steev Hise opened for them at the Bryant Lake Bowl, Wednesday, October 3rd. The photo is of Steev performing in front of a live projection of the computer screen he's using to monitor his manipulation of the various hardware/software which he uses to perform. Steev's work is often as much about the tools he uses (many of which he created himself), as it is about the message (not to mention the joy of listening). At the time of this performance, Steev was performing with something he calls The Syntagm Engine, which is, as he says on his website, "an attempt to solve the following problem: How does one combine a performative practice of non-idiomatic free improvisation with an aesthetic of critical sound collage (critical in the sense of detournement, the removal of a piece of culture from its original context and its placement in a new context with the purpose of commenting on or critiquing that material or its origins)?"

Can you tell Steev was a Cultural Studies major? I can, but maybe that's because I was, as well. I finally stopped changing majors when I hit on the CSCL department at the University of Minnesota, which was a pretty nice way to round out my long career as a college student. Anyway...

Steev is the sysadmin of, by the way. I have no idea what sysadmin means, except that you see "sysadmin" used a lot more than "Systems Administrator," which is what I assume it stands for. Regardless, the site he administrates is awesome. is a website dedicated to recycled culture, which Some Assembly Required and most of my recycled art projects have been pretty closely associated with for more than a few years now. I think the first Escape Mechanism website was hosted there in 1999, so thats about six years anyway. The photo is not from his performance at Sound Unseen; its from his performance at Electrofringe 2001, in Australia. It looks exactly like what I remember though, from his opening set for Wet Gate, so I stole it from his page at Detritus, and used it here.

There's no photo that would really do Wet Gate's performance justice. They have the same problem with audio recordings from their live performances. You really have to see the explosion of light, color and sound, recycled from the film they're simultaneously projecting/manipulating, in person, or you're not really going to get it. Not really. Wet Gate went on after Steev, with their three film projectors looking very reminiscent of the Tape-beatles set up on Sunday, but once the peformance began the differences became quite clear. For one thing, while the Tape-beatles were "performing," in the sense that they were physically monitoring and manipulating the speed at which the film was projected (in order to keep the three screenings playing approximately in time with another), when Wet Gate performed with their sixteen millimeter film reels, they were literally creating something new right there in front of you - improvising as much with the projected light, as with the images on the film, at the same time they were manipulating the soundtracks to the same source material (using small samplers, connected to the projectors). It was nice to start the series with the Tape-beatles, and end with Wet Gate, for this reason. Here were two groups, whose film projectors were often used to define them, proving that it was how they chose to use those machines, along with their choices of projected sounds and images, which really defined their work as individual artists.

It was a beautiful close to a wonderful series of Plunderphonic events, and I was really really proud to have been a part of it. The next day at the Walker Art Center, Kembrew McLeod led a little discussion with The Tape-beatles, Wet Gate and Steev Hise, and all I can remember is that it was absurdly short. The group had only just started to warm up to the idea of having a discussion on a stage, when someone stepped in and said ok, thats all the time we have. There couldn't have been more than a 1/2 hour between their introductions and their thank-you's. But who can complain? We'd had three great evenings of excellent performances by six very different groups, united in their re-use of previously existing audio and video/film, and at least one very good recording resulted from having gathered so many like minds in Minneapolis. I will tell that story next.

By the way - now's a good time to say thanks to Nate Johnson for asking me to organize the shows! I really can't thank him enough for giving me that opportunity. Thanks Nate!

and thanks for reading!
Jon Nelson


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