Saturday, June 18, 2011

Heard, Not Seen

Calm and serene
The sound of a cicada
Penetrates the rock

The Hammer Museum had a series of performance over the month entitled "Insect Ensemble", a performance curated by Jessica Catron. Using hand percussion and simple mouth sounds, the concept was to create an ambient aural environment of insect-like sounds. Five performers were scattered across the Hammer Courtyard to create this effect.

The performers were Jessica Catron, Jessica Basta, Julia Holter, Tanya Rubbak, and Chris Votek.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about this project. Emulationism is cool in concept but often feels shallow and overly technical in execution. However, when the artist is capable of transforming mere simulation into an engaging expression, that's what catches my interest. The Insect Ensemble made that crucial step beyond technical cleverness to compelling artistry.

When the performance began, I was impressed by the authenticity of the sounds. The clicks, buzzes, and chirps were all convincing. The clever selection of rattles, rocks and sticks that made such realistic noises was impressive. That entertained me for a good ten minutes of the hour performance. Just when I was growing tired, I noticed how the performers seemed to be improvising off of each other. One series of clicks and rattles would lead to a response of scrapes and drones. And then a counter response and so on.

I started to move around the courtyard to see how the sounds changed. I walked up to the upper gallery to get a better view of all five performers. It was a very dynamic and interactive experience. I could have listened for well over an hour. It was a good show!

I wish there was some way to share the audio experience with you all, but it's wouldn't translate well into a recorded format. It was very site specific. But here are some consolation vids featuring various performer of the Insect Ensemble. Good stuff!!!

Here's the Hammer Museum's website.

Here's Basho's Wikipedia page.

And here's Jessica Catron's MySpace page.


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