T:BA Digest Day 5: International Hassle

We’re post mid-week T:BA now, it’s Friday morning and hurdling in to the weekend. Time to catch up on the happenings and what to look forward to. Lets start with the prior and I’ll end with my schedule for the remaining festival.

My week started Monday evening with a beer at Roadside Attraction, a few blocks from WHS, spending some time with Danielle Ross and eventually Linda Austin. I like that festivals bring people together who may be little acquainted or otherwise share mutual friends or even simply know one another’s work. For instance, my company, InterArts presented a short performance by Danielle Ross at No.Fest 2011, but we didn’t meet until later that year, let alone grab a drink. Also, I accidently sat next to Linda Austin the night prior, so it was a fun coincidence to meet up at WHS by virtue of spending time with Danielle. Festivals are always good social networking opportunities. So, together we watched Perforations, curated by Zvonimir Dobrovic. I am sorry to say, hit and miss. Lets go through them one at a time.

Petra Kovacic does two pieces: the first you’ll recognize on page 022 of the large program book with the woman stringing a whole lot of twine to a doorway. Now, this could be interesting to watch, but only the front fifteen people could get a decent glance. Occasionally, a light behind Petra would cast an interesting shadow that everyone could see, but it wasn’t clearly intentional. So, we all stood there hearing faint music watching ourselves get closed in. Maybe that’s it, the closing us in bit… but in the end, the web of twine was cut and we left the room; very little suspense.

Then, the same artist performed a second piece, something texturally interesting. Light is cast down on to square mirrors that reflect back on to a wall – like a photon shadow. She arranged the mirrors in to a square shape and proceeded to crawl around the floor, casting her own shadow against the light shadow. That’s interesting. And her body seemed to double; the image of her body looked like two individuals in separate motion but almost exactly similar. Technically, it was interesting, but it did not evolve and so lost impact before completion. It was compelling enough and I thought it was beautiful.

Then Biljana Kosmogina really was kind of a bug. The performance is well constructed enough, with podium centered between walls of propaganda images she walks out with armed security to give a speech: ELECT PUSSY! I believe the band Pussy Riot is more popular in Belgrade, Serbia. The projector screen displayed a rotation of about twenty different vaginas, with some real diversity! It was relatively funny, but it really didn’t need more than three minutes. I am an open mic comic; I do three-minute sets all the time. That would have been booed at any comedy open mic worth its salt. I am sorry to be so harsh. But here is the bit: “Elect Vagina!” … “Pussy will solve our global conflicts.” … “The answer to our economic troubles is Pussy!” and really carrying on. It became funny again when she named policiticians, mostly recent American candidates, followed by horny moans. “Ron Paul, Hmmmm oooohhh!” But again, usage becomes trite. Comedy is walking the line of overuse and constantly developing material.

After that, the show leads upstairs for a band called East Rodeo. It was an improvised experimental music set, heavily laden with electronics. Now, physically, I’m starting to crash from the Pabst; I stopped drinking hours ago and I wanted to relax. I’m still viewing the series with the great dancers mentioned above, but I sat on the floor, myself leaning up against the wall, perpendicular to the band. The music was calm initially, just enough to get me sleepy. Suddenly it blasts off! There was a lot of dynamic to their sound. But I managed to doze off right as Danielle tapped me on the leg to say they were going downstairs. I nod my head okay and get back to resting my eyes. I come to in the last minute or so of their set. I think I liked it. But the audience thinned out quite a bit.

Following that show at THE WORKS was BRAINSTORM/Sahel Sounds. The whole set up was pretty fun and interactive. Three screens contained projections from two laptops: center containing Youtube videos, images, and the main content, while the left contained the window for Google and whatever websites Christopher Kirkley used to drum up this treasure trove of western African music. The right screen had a feed from Twitterfall so that audience members could tweet anything with #globalmobilepop. Brainstorm performed a short set after some introduction. They have added a bassist since last seeing them. It’s been some time. They really are a great pop group. Through the comparison of western African pop music, I did hear the connection of their rhythms and melodies that was not apparent to me. They have sort of an oldies feel too… they’re kind of universally recognizable pop music.

Adam Baz brought in the auto-tuner. It’s not necessary. They have their own voice, but he did use it creatively, I’ll give him that. And I do resist the auto-tune. I started audio engineering at the onset of that trend, most engineers were just fixing small mistakes with it. It is amazing how it has taken over and reshaped the voice. But it reminds me of the eighties popularity of modular vocoding, which sounded robotic and it was all the craze of the eighties. Now we have drones blasting targets in places like Africa! Oh! Eeeh…yuck. Back to Brainstorm then? Yes. The drumming, the hooks, the guitars, it’s the stuff people want. And in the last moments of their set, I tweeted something that cracked everyone up. See the photo below. I wonder if the laughter confused them. I want to address them here: you had the audience loving you and the whole thing. Sorry to steal your thunder.

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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