2011 Exhibit

Curated by: Christoph Cox

Curatorial Statement

The 3rd annual Brick + Mortar International Video Art Festival presents work by a range of contemporary artists who focus on sound, music, and relationships of dissonance and consonance between sound and image. Since the 1990s, sound has become a central concern in contemporary art, with many leading video artists and filmmakers actively exploring the sonic potential of audio-visual media. The 2011 edition of Brick + Mortar showcases some of the most interesting and engaging of these explorations from the past decade by a group of prominent artists from North America, Europe, and Asia.

Early avant-garde filmmakers worried that the advent of sound would reduce cinema to an illusionistic portrayal of the world, with sound a subordinate prop for the visual image. These worries proved to be well justified. Present-day avant-gardists have heeded those early warnings, giving sound an equal place and exploring the productive difference between the auditory and visual registers of video and film. Luke Fowler and Raha Raissnia both collaborate with sound artists to develop allied strategies for capturing light and sound. Refusing image altogether, Mirko Martin's video operates solely through sound and text. Conversely, Steve Roden's video is silent but functions as a kind of visual and musical score. Mathias Poledna and Manon de Boer use the camera to capture and intervene in musical performance and recording. Other projects uncover the critical potential of music. 2010 Turner Prize nominee The Otolith Group explores the Afro-Futurist mythology of the Detroit electronic duo Drexciya, while Tony Cokes presents a video essay that examines the complex racial politics of House and Techno. Via these and other strategies, the projects presented at this year's Brick + Mortar festival amplify the "audio" aspect of this "video" festival.

The Brick + Mortar festival takes place in Greenfield, an historic mill town in western Massachusetts. Transforming the city's downtown into a temporary arts district, the festival presents video projections and installations within a variety of extraordinary architectural sites that are in various stages of renovation. The festival is free and open to the public.

Manon de Boer (NL)
Pianist Jean-Luc Fafchamps performs John Cage's famous "silent" composition 4'33" (1952) twice in front of a live audience. The first time, in a single still take, the camera records Fafchamps' execution of the composition's three movements – 1'40", 2'33" and 30" – each marked by the striking of a timer. In this first version, the soundtrack presents the ambient sound of the performance space. In the second performance, however, all sound is cut except for the timer clicks; and the sonic focus shifts to the ambient sound of the audience watching the film.

Web Site: www.janmot.com/manon_de_boer
Manon de Boer

Two Times 4'33", 2008
35mm film transferred to video, 12:30, color, surround sound
Seth Cluett (US)
Field recordings of an entire summer's lightning storms are electronically processed and spatialized through a multi-channel audio system. A video of heavy rain is projected onto a tray of shallow water, which is shaken by an algorithmically-generated thunderstorm that creates standing wave patterns. Recorded and live materials, sounds, and images combine to produce a simulated and real meteorological experience.

Web Site: www.onelonelypixel.org
Seth Cluett

Cloud-To-Air, 2003/2011
steel tray, water, video, multi-channel audio
Tony Cokes (US)
Tony Cokes produces video essays that investigate ideas and texts in audio-visual form. mikrohaus examines the links between "minimal" electronic music and race, exploring how black pop cultural forms are consumed and then redeployed to produce new interventions in today's global contexts. Rather than merely criticizing white European appropriations of black cultural forms, Cokes' video discloses the complex musical and racial hybrids fostered by these musics and musical cultures. The video features textual fragments from theorists, critics, and producers, and a sound mix of "Micro House" music, the stripped-down variety of House and Techno released by prominent German producers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Tony Cokes

Mikrohaus (or The Black Atlantic?), 2007
video, 31:04, b&w, sound
Luke Fowler (UK)
How to create a meaningful dialogue between looking and listening? Scottish filmmaker Luke Fowler's film cycle A Grammar for Listening attempts to address this question through the possibilities afforded by 16mm film and digital sound recording. In part 1, Fowler collaborates with English sound artist Lee Patterson, who records various forms of underwater life using homemade hydrophones. Within the film these environmental recordings are supplemented by performances to camera involving found objects (burning walnuts, electro-magnetically excited springs, etc.) amplified by contact microphones. Collaborating with Patterson, Fowler searches for a visual language that parallels and complements these sonic phenomena.

Web Site: www.themoderninstitute.com/artists/9
Luke Fowler

A Grammar for Listening, Part 1, 2009
16mm film in digital format, 22:00, color, sound
Jesse Jones (IE)
"A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism," wrote Marx and Engels a century and a half ago in the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto. Today communism still haunts us – as a tarnished past and a utopian possibility. Jesse Jones's film explores this spectral past and future. The opening section features the socialist anthem The Internationale, performed on theremin by Lydia Kavina, great niece of the instrument's inventor Leon Theremin, who presented it to Lenin in 1919. The film's second part takes place in Vooruit, a castle in Ghent, Belgium built by socialists in the 1910s as a community and cultural center that operated via an alternative cooperative economy. Throughout the halls of Vooruit, The Whisper Choir recites Communist Manifesto as ghostly reminder and prophecy.
Jesse Jones

The Spectre and the Sphere, 2008
16mm film transferred to video, 12:21, color, sound
Paul Lindale (UK/US)
Paul Lindale's Leviathan presents a shimmering gray-blue seascape, at once still and ever-changing, peaceful and ominous. The soundtrack hints at a powerful unseen force. Taken together, sound and image bear witness to the place of human beings in the world and our relative powerlessness in the face of nature's magnitude and power.
Paul Lindale

Leviathan, 2010-11 Video, 38:27, color, sound
Kara Lynch (US)
This site-specific piece is the latest episode in Invisible, Lynch's long-form audio/video project, which asks the question: what if the transatlantic slave trade never happened? It is the present. Haunted by the past and doubtful of the future, The Archivist excavates the vault. She dusts off and catalogs each relic. From this vast inventory she shares contents from three video files that correspond to the time/space of Greenfield, MA 2011. The Archivist's Vault proposes a crossroads of stories set in Franklin County: first nation meets settler; chattel slavery meets big bankroll; underground railroad meets paper-mill; 20th century decay meets 21st century re-purpose. The Archivist provides a guided audio tour. View/listen at your leisure.

Download audio tour
Kara Lynch

Invisible – The Archivist's Vault, 2011
Audio walk, video
Mirko Martin (DE)
Martin's video documents a night in the artist's Los Angeles neighborhood during a half-year stay in 2008. Monitoring gang activity, police helicopters circled the neighborhood on a regular basis. On a particularly noisy night, Martin went out to capture some sound. Within minutes, he heard gunshots. Over a black screen, Noir captures these gunshots and conversations with several residents and passers-by who try to make sense of what they heard and didn't hear, saw and didn't see.

Web Site: www.mirkomartin.com
Mirko Martin

Noir, 2008
HDV transferred to DVD, 8:08, b/w, sound
The Otolith Group (UK) [Kodwo Eshun & Anjalika Sagar]
This recent project by 2010 Turner Prize finalists The Otolith Group explores the Afro-Futurist mythology of the Detroit-based electronic music duo Drexciya, whose recordings imagined a fictional world populated by the subaquatic descendents of Africans drowned during the Middle Passage. Drexciya's fabulation recalls the real events of the slave ship Zong, whose captain, in 1781, ordered sick and dying slaves to be thrown overboard - an event captured in J.W.W. Turner's proto-abstract painting The Slave Ship (1840), famously examined by the critic John Ruskin. Through this constellation of sources, The Otolith Group produces an affective cartography of finance capitalism, inaugurated by the Atlantic slave trade and wreaking havoc on the world economy today.

Web Site: otolithgroup.org
The Otolith Group

Hydra Decapita, 2010
HD Video, 31:41, color, sound
Jenny Perlin (US)
Part of a series of eight short films titled The Perlin Papers, this pair of works evolved from the artist's research into FBI documents of secretly-transcribed conversations from the Red Scare of the 1950s. Addressing the expansive net of espionage during the McCarthy era and the resulting paranoia about hidden enemies, the films allude to current anxieties surrounding privacy and surveillance in contemporary America. In Transcript, actors recreate a dinner conversation covertly recorded in October 1953, four months after the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, alleged spies for the Soviet Union. Much of the dialogue is muffled because the original conversation was not entirely audible to the spy. The second film, Inaudible, lists all of the words that the FBI could not hear or imagined were being spoken in the conversations that make up the film Transcript.

Web Site: www.nilrep.net
Jenny Perlin

Transcript, 2006
16mm transferred to video, 11:25, color, sound

Inaudible, 2006/2010
16mm transferred to video, 1:44, b/w, silent
Mathias Poledna (AT)
Poledna's film shows a recording session in the legendary Studio 3 at United Western Recorders, a studio that has remained largely unchanged since the early 1960s because of its unique sonic characteristics. Western Recording creates a hybrid historical setting that involves a reinterpretation of Harry Nilsson's 1969 song "City Life." The studio space in which the film takes us is split, caught between different temporal coordinates and divided into a live and a control area. Through the play of image and sound that result from this splitting, Poledna achieves a complex problematization of filmic documentation and the audiovisual construction and reconstruction of history.

Web Site: www.meyerkainer.com/artists/Mathias-Poledna
Mathias Poledna

Western Recording, 2003
16mm film, 10:30, color, sound
Raha Raissnia (IR/US) and Charles Curtis (US)
Freeway presents a collaboration between visual artist Raha Raissnia and Charles Curtis, one of the leading instrumentalists in experimental music. Using slides and film, Raissnia creates whirling abstractions of light and color while Curtis generates layers of microtonal drones on cello and electronics – a true conjunction between sound and image in which each transforms the other and neither dominates.

Web Site: Raha Raissnia and Charles Curtis
Raha Raissnia and Charles Curtis

Freeway, 2005–8
DVD, 23:44, color, sound
Steve Roden (US)
Steve Roden's work with sound, film, painting, and sculpture employs idiosyncratic notational and conceptual systems that become formal skeletons for a more intuitive artistic production. Striations was inspired by a group of unfinished stone sculptures made by the artist's grandmother and a quotation from the sculptor Henry Moore found in her studio. The film is silent, consisting of two projections placed side by side. Hand-drawn elements use the vowel structure of the Moore quotation as a score for drawing actions related to specified numbers of frames. The film unabashedly draws inspiration from Dennis Oppenheim's early films, Gary Beydler's 1975 film Hand Held Day, and an early film by Jess (Collins) that suggests a Victorian magic lantern show.

Web Site: www.inbetweennoise.com
Steve Roden

Striations, 2011
16mm film transferred to video, 6:00, color, silent
Billy Roisz (AT)
Austrian artist Billy Roisz is known for live performances that cross signals between video and audio. In Not Still, she uses analogue media to perform a sort of séance, summoning dead objects, images and sounds via camera and turntable. A vinyl record serves as the source for both sound and image. Roisz uses a microscope camera to go deep into the grooves of the record, layering this material with found footage that flares up like a ghostly presence. Turntablists dieb13 and eRikm provide a soundtrack of garbled cinematic fragments and otherworldly transmissions over a backdrop of vinyl pops and scratches.

Web Site: billyroisz.klingt.org
Billy Roisz

Not Still, 2007
Beta SP/DVD, 10:00, color, sound
Julian Rosefeldt (DE)
Julian Rosefeldt's three-channel film installation The Soundmaker provokes bewildering tensions between what we see and what we hear. In a cramped sound studio, a foley artist provides the soundtrack for the center screen, in which a man (the foley artist himself) enters an apartment and begins to organize the furniture into a makeshift sculptural installation. The foley artist does a remarkable job of keeping up with the action; but inevitably he slips. The camera dollies around the apartment scene, occasionally wandering away from the action. Sometimes we see what we don't hear; other times we hear what we don't see. At times the screens trade places; and perhaps the foley artist and protagonist do as well. The whole project seems at once absurd and engaging, a ridiculous failure and a masterful success.

Web Site: Julian Rosefeldt
Julian Rosefeldt

The Soundmaker (Trilogy of Failure, Part 1), 2004
3-Channel Film Installation, 35:07 loop, color, sound
Filmed on Super-16mm, converted to PAL SD and transferred onto DVD
Simpson/Meade (US) [Mary Simpson & Fionn Meade]
Simpson/Mead"s film revisits the myth of the satyr musician Marsyas and his fateful duel with the Greek god Apollo. Known in version and variation as the inventor of augury and defender of free speech, here Marsyas occupies the space of repetition and claims the right to begin again, to sing again, revealing gesture as the display of mediation, being-in-a-medium, and ethical potential. Shot in the chapel space of Robert Rauschenberg"s former studio—previously an orphanage—the film further recalls how play and chance adhere to language, re-inventing a constructed contingency at the heart of musical composition.

Web Site: www.simpsonandmeade.com

If Now Then, 2011
16mm film transferred to HD, color, sound, 7:35
Mika Tajima and New Humans (US)
At once music video, installation, and performance document, this piece presents various facets of Mika Tajima's artistic practice. Tajima"s editing and animation transform the screen into a graphical surface that registers her characteristic iconography and mirrors the studio dividers that cut up the performance space. The video alludes to Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil/One Plus One, 1968, which captured a Rolling Stones studio session against the backdrop of late 60s racial and political violence. Collaborating with poet-artist-architect Vito Acconci and violinist C. Spencer Yeh, Tajima and New Humans reflect the process of working together in a band format, with all the contradictions, takes, and negotiations involved in creative production.

Web Site: mikatajima.com and www.newhumansnyc.com
Mika Tajima and New Humans

Holding Your Breath (Taking the Long Way), 2008
video, 13:00, color, sound
Su-Mei Tse
An endlessly revolving vinyl record hovers like a distant mirage. The record is at once a technological surrogate for memory and a trigger ignites it. The characteristic crackle and pops of needle-in-groove lends an air of nostalgia for a materiality that has receded in the digital age.

Web Site: peterblumgallery.com/artists/su-mei-tse
Su-Mei Tse

Floating Memories, 2009
Video, 47:00, color, sound
Daniel Warner (US)
This sound installation attempts to meet the plethora of audio media head-on, freezing a moment of sound here and there, then moving on to grab the next moment. The listener experiences a re-composed sound world that is sometimes an "aura" of a song or speech, and other times just a period of silence. The input to this system is variable. It could be a pop song, a symphony, or an ambient environment. For this installation, Warner has chosen to stream radio through the Freeze-Frame system.

Web Site: helios.hampshire.edu/~dcwMB
Daniel Warner

Freeze-Frame, 2011
Sound installation