Louis, Christian Marclay, Ryoji Ikeda & Laurie Anderson
It was like discovering someone's secret life. Music buffs would bump into art lovers, and each would relate their experiences of Christian Marclay, from either a gigging or exhibiting perspective. Followers of his freely improvised turntablism would marvel at Marclay's prodigious output as a figurative conceptualist, not to mention filmmaker. Gallery stalkers would enter the listening room of the Whitney's extensively enlightening Marclay exhibition, cowering in fear as frenetic sonic disruption ensued (from the comfort of the room's cream sofa configuration). Upon entering this room (which was like being inside a gargantuan iPod), the visitor was struck with the yearning desire that all soirées could be like this: it was not unlike being in the least popular room at a house party, where stray bodies slumped alone, sinking into oblivion and deep furnishing. Then, when new arrivals came, it was curious to observe their caution upon entering the room, like gerbils staking out fresh territory, as Marclay jammed through the speakers, along with with the shuffling likes of Thurston Moore, John Zorn and Lee Ranaldo.
Both factions (giggers and gallerians) were admirably served by the depth of this show, not least its commitment to an almost daily musical programme. Marclay's pieces are mostly conceptual (but often blessed with humour), and primarily graphic in nature. Therefore, it was an astute practice to present a range of his works in several versions, with varying personnel. Their ultimate joy is how each piece's familiar, proscribed elements collide with the real-time reality of unpredictable and spontaneous realisations.
The accordionist Guy Klucevsek played "Ephemera," partly like its namesake, with fleeting finger-flutters and concise haiku-length pronouncements, but also featuring some more extended investigations of the instrument's possibilities, stretching sounds along with stretched expandable middle (just what is the correct name for an accordion's flexible torso? Its bellow?).
The "Screenplay" short film received several readings, but the version by J.G. Thirlwell (laptop), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and Kenny Wollesen (percussion) appeared less improvised than some. This was chiefly due to Thirlwell triggering separate retro-danger styled sections (what a movie sub-genre!) that were clearly in sympathy with the images, perhaps leaving his partners free to react with greater spontaneity. Wollesen became the chief sound effects man.
"Pret â Portèr" invites the greatest opportunity for humour, although this wasn't overly milked by trumpeter Peter Evans and saxophonist Ulrich Krieger. Let me just interject here to stress Marclay's absolute obsession with the trappings of musical notation, even though he's musically illiterate (in the conventional sense). Amongst his many compulsive gatherings is a rail of garments that all sport musical notes as part of their fabric. The aim of this piece is for a pair of human mannequins to work through the clothes, whilst the musicians play what they read on said togs. Model/dancer/performance artist # 1, Esther M. Palmer, appeared unused to this public dressing/undressing scenario, shunning invention and expression, and becoming merely functional. Model/dancer/performance artist # 2, Alberto Denis, was more adventurous in his revolvings and displayings of the 'scores.' There was the same kind of variance with the musicians: Evans would flatly stick to what was presented, ending when he'd run though the notes a single time, whereas Krieger would repeat, re-invent, or turn to the pile of clobber on the floor if his humannequin was too slow in changing gear. Whatever occurred, this was a consistently amusing performance, adventurous as well as being witty. Hearty entertainment stormed the avant-garde barricades!
Kato Hideki and Zeena Parkins turned away from their regular instruments to perform "Sixty-Four Bells And A Bow," which involved sitting at opposite ends of a long table lined with an impressive collection of hand-bells. Some were metal and large, others were glass or porcelain, and tiny. Initially, the pair were alternating scientifically, gradually working though the bells from left-to-right, line-by-line. Then, the sensible approach began to disintegrate, as Hideki and Parkins started to sample and distort the bell-sounds, extending their sonic threads. The large Tibetan-looking tinkler was a clear favourite. The piece successfully navigated a slow curve of gradual extension, as bells were stretched to the limits of their ringing potentiality.