IMPROVISATION FESTIVAL

I am fortunate to be part of the 24-hour online #ImprovFest2020 (IF) taking place on August 8 at 1 AM GMT+1. Fortunately, that’s 5 pm in British Columbia where I live.

IF 2020 will livestream pre-recorded curated video and audio submissions from over 150+ artists from 15+ countries. The 24-hour festival is free to “attend” and will feature a dynamic array of improvisational artists, including musicians, spoken word poets, dancers, and theatre practitioners.

Visit the website, and see the trailer below (you can see me at the end of this clip):

And, for anyone interested, here’s the performance from IF 2020:

Rutherford Chang’s The White Album

Front cover.
Front cover.

Back cover.
Back cover.

I own my share of peculiar records: The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (read by Timothy Leary); Natural Childbirth (an early 1950s record that documents the live birth of a baby); a record that is only frog sounds; a yodeling record; and to my growing vinyl oddities, I can now add Rutherford Chang’s The White Album. Rutherford Chang has been getting a lot of press for his art project, “We Buy White Albums,” where he only purchases copies of The Beatles’ White Album, displayed at a gallery (set up like a record shop) that only carries the iconic double album. All of the albums are first-pressings and Rutherford Chang’s website now lists the total number of copies at 918. At some point during the exhibit (here’s an interview on the process), Rutherford thought, “I wonder what it sounds like if you play 100 copies of The White Album at once?” And that’s exactly what Chang’s The White Album does: 100 (45 year-old) first-pressings of The White Album are synced up in a bizarre sound collage that moves in and out of the familiar and into the choral and cacophonous. Each copy of the record is unique, and given the slight sound variations in pressings, and the natural and scratched wear of vinyl, the listening experience captures the distinct history of each record. We start off with a familiar, but muddier version of “Back in the U.S.S.R,” and then move into uncontrollably new territory as the records slowly coast out of sync over the course of each side. Chang even layered the gatefold cover and disc labels with the worn and hand-drawn originals to create a visual collage that reworks the featureless original and highlights the individual history of each copy.

Poster of the 100 albums.
The poster of the 100 albums.

Pressed in a very limited run—which sold out quick—I am happy to add Chang’s The White Album to my vinyl collection. Of course, some purists might disavow the album, while others will welcome this innovative project as being in line with the experimental spirit of late-period Beatles. Have a listen for yourself.

Tomomi Adachi

Adachi  performs on a self-made instrument.
Tomomi Adachi performs on a self-made instrument.

 

 

Tomomi Adachi (足立 智美) is a Japanese vocal and electronics performer, improviser, composer, instrument builder, installation artist, theatre director, and sound poet. He is the only performer of sound poetry in Japan and performed Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonate” for the first time in Japan. He has performed with numerous musicians, dancers, and filmmakers, and along with his incredible vocal improvisations, he is known for his unique improvisations on his self-made instruments, many of which are made from Tupperware: a material that is both affordable and portable. Adachi describes his creations as an extension of his improvisatory practice: “I began to build instruments by myself in 1994, it was almost the same period with starting my activity as an improviser.” Last month in Guelph, Ontario we were treated to a performance by Adachi on one of his self-made instruments, as well as a vocal performance, followed by a self-reflexive talk about his artistic praxis.

The event took place at the inaugural Thinking Spaces Reading Group in Guelph. After the performance, Adachi discussed his work as an improviser with a focus on his own approach to self-made instruments, as well as his newest project PUTIF (People’s United Telepathic Improvisation Front), a collaboration with Jennifer Walshe. In PUTIF, Walshe and Adachi improvise together at a specified time in two separate locations, listening to one another at distances beyond the reach of the human ear. These improvisations are recorded and later combined and compared. They also encourage others to listen telepathically to their improvisation and send in descriptions of what they hear. At the Reading Group, Adachi discussed how telepathy functions as a conceptual framework for musical improvisation, demonstrating how others can be present in their absence. He also discussed how improvisation can be a tool for being together despite physical distance, as well as posing questions about the advantages of telematic technology in an age where it is becoming increasingly common.

If you get a chance you should check out Adachi’s fantastically creative work. For now, here is a video of Adachi performing on a self-made instrument, similar to the one he performed with in Guelph:

And, here are a couple photos of Tomomi Adachi’s performance and visit to Guelph.

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All photos of Tomomi Adachi by Paul Watkins.

Ai Weiwei: According to What?

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Dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) remains relentless in his pursuit of free expression through art, social media, and political protest. For Ai Weiwei there is no clear division between art and politics. For him, art is a vehicle for social change, and a vehicle for the possible. After recently watching the documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, I was particularly excited to see his major exhibit, According to What?, currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) until October 27th, 2013.

For those who don’t know, Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists. Through his art he advocates for freedom of expression and places value in individual lives within the totalitarian state. After an earthquake in China’s Sichuan province in 2008 killed more than 5,000 children he has become ever more outspoken in his criticism of the Chinese government. His activism and controversial artwork has led to the seizure of his passport and he is currently not allowed to travel outside of China.

Everything is art. Everything is politics.

-Ai Weiwei

In addition to working in a wide range of media, Ai Weiwei utilizes social media to make art and connect with the world. If I wasn’t already so busy, I’d sign up for Chinese language lessons so I could read his twitter feed. For now, I’ll have the artwork from his latest exhibit in Toronto to reflect upon.

Ai Weiwei's Snake Ceiling, a serpentine form made from children's backpacks, commemorates the thousands of students who died in poorly constructed schools during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Ai Weiwei’s Snake Ceiling, a serpentine form made from children’s backpacks, commemorates the thousands of students who died in poorly constructed schools during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

This piece demonstrated the different moon phases.
This piece demonstrated the different moon phases.

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Grapes (wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911).

Cat toy.
Cat toy.

Teahouse: these three sculptural forms are made from solid blocks of Pu’er tea grown and harvested in southwest China. Fermented and aged using traditional methods, the tea has been compressed and moulded into the shape of houses, which are surrounded by a field of loose tea leaves. Teahouses were the social centre of traditional Chinese culture.
Teahouse: these three sculptural forms are made from solid blocks of Pu’er tea grown and harvested in southwest China. Fermented and aged using traditional methods, the tea has been compressed and moulded into the shape of houses, which are surrounded by a field of loose tea leaves. Teahouses were the social centre of traditional Chinese culture.

Ai's most controversial work involves altering revered objects, like these paint-covered ancient Chinese vases.
Ai Weiwei’s most controversial work involves altering revered objects, like these paint-covered ancient Chinese vases.

Here Ai Weiwei is dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (part of a photographic triptych).
Here Ai Weiwei is dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (part of a photographic triptych).

Another graffitied urn.
Another graffitied urn.

Ai Weiwei created this piece, Straight, from rebar he recovered from collapsed schoolhouses following the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. Each mangled piece of rebar was straightened through a laborious process.
Ai Weiwei created this piece, Straight, from rebar he recovered from collapsed schoolhouses following the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. Each mangled piece of rebar was straightened through a laborious process.

He Xie, or "river crab," consists of more than 3,200 porcelain crabs. "He xie" is also a homophone for the Chinese word for "harmonious," which is part of the Chinese Communist Party slogan. Today, "he xie" has become an ironic Internet euphemism for official censorship.
He Xie, or “river crab,” consists of more than 3,200 porcelain crabs. “He xie” is also a homophone for the Chinese word for “harmonious,” which is part of the Chinese Communist Party slogan. Today, “he xie” has become an ironic Internet euphemism for official censorship.

China in the rings of a log.
China in the rings of a log.

Ai Weiwei and me.
Ai Weiwei and me.

The image says it all.
The image says it all.

All Photos by Paul Watkins.