Articles by "PORTALS, Author at PORTALS"
In this edition of Visualized, we talk to LA-based visual artist and musician Lionel Williams about interactive art, audience participation, Egyptian BioGeometry, and his dream installation. His band, Vinyl Williams, released their stunning debut Lemniscate in fall 2012, and it is not to be missed. You can grab it in Europe via No Pain In Pop and stateside via Williams’s own label, Salonislam.
Mmmhmmmmm. I’ve been designing flyers for so long… flat vertical flyers. I only recently began thinking that it’s a strange space to be working inside of, somewhat of a limited, non-generative zone. Throughout my experimenting and exploring in 3D modeling and interactive programs, lately I’ve inevitably had a shift into 3D space. Therefore I thought it’d be interesting to apply these world-making tools to something as banal as a tour flyer, hopefully to shift the weight of a flyer’s inherent lifeless qualities into a more expanded, highly generative area, meaning the user can create the flyer by moving, can adjust the composition of the objects in space based on their movement. They can then encounter the information about the tour instead of the information encountering them.
The main idea is more about the real-time improvisational aspects of the sound within the world. Three songs are playing simultaneously, one from each artist on tour. I deliberately picked songs that are in the same key, or close enough to mix well with each other. The three tracks are placed at different areas within the environment, and the user’s proximity to those areas determine the remixed sound of the three separate simultaneous tracks. There is also an additional secret improvisational remix area located at the very end of the world, incorporating short audio samples that we (Vinyl Williams) have compiled of different jams we’ve done. The never-ending process and re-appropriation is everything. Our improvisations become new improvisations generated by the audience, by fans. The separation between audience and performer is getting exponentially thinner!
You’ll float into a gallery with white walls, noticing the checkerboard floor (where the American kitchen transcends into the Twin Peaks Freemason ritual chamber) and a large Egyptian (American?) obelisk, which is on top of a wireless computer mouse, which rolls on the floor. The placement of the obelisk in the room determines the direction of exploration throughout the digital world we’ve created, which will be projected on one of the white walls. It will act as a visual generating tool, an irrational planet of waves, temples, and multi-religious, contradictory, and contextless imagery. We’ll be exhibiting at Forest Room 5 in Denver on May 24th, as well as Glasslands in New York City on the 29th.
How do you adapt the installation to different spaces?
The most important decision we will be making is the placement of the projector, which will either be on the band while we’re performing, or on a separate wall depending on the architecture and layout. We generally don’t put too much preliminary thought into these things. We wing it a lot.
What is the role of audience participation in your pieces?
A goal of ours, not quite achieved yet, is to give the audience a stake in how our musical improvisations twist and turn, and how our stage effects and visuals happen and change in time. A couple of days ago we did a show at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles where we had a computer system set up to a projector, where audience members can explore an environment I created called “Postmodern Magic” while we perform—which is named after the book by Patrick Dunn. The ideas in the book and the ideas in the virtual realm are not very related. The world is sort of a satirical kiss on the cheek of postmodernism. Imagine if postmodern addressed extrasensory worlds, magical landscapes of ayahuasca lords, tropical galleries, space churches, the worship of criticism and the act of categorization and compartmentalization as holy duality. It’s not taken too seriously.
Are there other things you want to try in order to achieve the goal of incorporating the audience more? For example, you’ve offered to let anyone in the crowd play your guitar during certain sets. Is that the direction you’re heading in?
It depends on if we’re performing presupposed songs or purely improvising. In an improvisational setting we’re interested in giving the audience full responsibility of the “master pitch,” controlling a small variation (A400hz to 432hz) of our full sound’s intonation. We’ve performed in A432hz, a slightly lower pitched tuning system which tends to add a globular effect to the timbre and tones. The master pitch would be controllable by some kind of globe, which depending on its 3D direction slowly determines the pitch shift. We’ve also performed without performing—basically by setting up a system of instruments and effects that we like, and through that system anybody can produce dense ambient pads and textures that can variate and swirl forever. Hobos tend to be good starting points for finding a source of sonic spontaneity and vibrancy.
You come from a musical family and started creating music at a very young age. How has that shaped you as an artist?
I’ve both reacted against it and happily absorbed it. I come from a well-trained family of musicians, and in a way I negated the structure of classical training, although I did in fact go through that whole schema at one point. My most obvious reaction was in the choice (or inherent desire) to take the intuitive route towards art and music making. Most others in my family know exactly what they’re doing before they touch pen to page, hand to instrument. I lean towards those arbitrary thoughts that leave the ego, concepts, and cultural context as much out of the equation as possible. In a sense I don’t compose much, but allow compositions to happen. This is a direct reaction and alchemical mixture of my musical family.
You’ve been working on a piece called “Hermetic Dawn” based on the temple of Kamak in Luxor, Egypt. What makes you interested in Egypt and other Middle Eastern locations as a source of aesthetic inspiration?
R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz has some good books on the topic, namely ‘The Temple In Man‘ changed my life. John Anthony West also is a good introduction into the topic of Egyptian sacred sciences, as well as Dr. Robert Gilbert, USA representative of BioGeometry, a new vibrational engineering science based on the ancient Egyptian technology of how shapes affect energy. Dr. Ibrahim Karim founded BioGeometry in Cairo, Egypt, and is slowly but surely getting his miraculous wisdom out into the world. My purpose in life is to incorporate the symbols of BioGeometry in order to siphon in measurable harmonious energies into artwork and music. This is where artwork, or even nature, escapes beyond subjective criticism and conceptual understanding, and enters into a universally healing functionality rather than a simplified discourse of metaphors. The medium is the message, the medium being the audio or artwork, the message being the qualitative effects of these sacred symbols.
“Hermetic Dawn” is an improvisational temple, which includes five obelisks which all emanate different improvisations I’ve done with various musicians. The center obelisk is a beat I sampled from Herbie Hancock‘s ‘Head Hunters‘ band. In the middle of the screen is a BioGeometrical medallion that is supposed to have profound electro-magnetic effects on the environment and on biology. I’m not sure if the effects occur with the medallion being a digital image, because I think it depends on the harmonics that occur in the physical elements (gold, silver) used to make the medallion, in congruency with the spectrum of electro-magnetism. But I think it’s sort of a gag that it can exist in a digital space, simply being a representation of BioGeometry. I’m just trying to spread the knowledge as much as possible while continuing my art practice, so these are the kind of projects that occur.
Do you think the purpose of art is primarily to make people feel a certain way? What is the role of criticism? Do you think post-modern criticism has interfered with the visceral effects of art?
The interference is mostly isolated within the art world, just as criticism has had a history of appealing to itself, or other critics, or the political environment that revolves around institutional critique and its heavy hierarchical structure. Subjectivity is great in the way that it reveals our individuality, our differences. In that way it is a dualistic cultural generator, like a stimulant force of incomprehensible altered states of thought. I’m more interested in the unified thought, or the panoramic thought, where the digestion of an artwork is in the experience or sensation rather than the rational explanation or metaphorical value. A mutual experience in this kind of work is a relationship that bonds inexplicable sensual feelings, vibes rather than concepts. Its like the difference between someone’s gaze and someone’s enunciation. Both can tell so much about a person.
If you had unlimited resources and could use any space, what would your dream installation look like?
Hmmm… I can’t definitively explain, I can just give hints to what elements it would include. Instead of an installation it’d more be like a temple for spiritual dads. Maybe it could switch its functionality everyday—one day it’s a church, the next a restaurant, the next a motel. And the employees of the temple gallery would fuck with you. The windows would look out on digital rainforest environments, there would be crystalline steps leading up to white lodges filled with cats. Maybe one room can have a Bob Dylan song playing and have a window looking out on Iceland with a half eaten burrito sitting on the window sill. It could just go on and on… as long as its disorienting, magical, and making fun of itself. And exotic.
Curated by Speaker Snacks & Poppy Red.
In this edition of PORTALS Sessions, we continued up the trail for another mountain show. We reached the peak and watched The Spookfish perform their moody track, “Moon Viewing Road.” The dark song set the appropriate tone for the bleakly beautiful scenery and eerie wind.
Watch for yourself below:
Daniel Dorsa (Producer / Camera / Editor)
Dan Goldberg (Producer)
Andrew Miksch (Audio)
In our latest edition of Silk Screens, Berkeley, California producer Yalls details the inception of “Remember,” one of the many standout tracks on his latest EP, The Voice.
Name your own price for The Voice here.
“Remember” started with a simple chord progression I came up with just playing around one day. I ran the chords through a simple soft synth and then later ran the midi out to a DSI Tetra and mixed the two. Usually, I’ll loop the chord progression and listen to it for a few minutes/days/weeks and think about whatever I’m thinking about and try to write or find vocals to sing over it.
In this case I added an a cappella sample vocal that I’ve warped so much I can’t remember what it is. I loaded it into a sampler, played with the pitch, and worked out a new melody by chopping up small bits that I could play like an instrument.
I added the bass line with a light bass synth and doubled it with a DSI Tetra again. It’s pretty much the same bass riff throughout.
Then I sampled a quick bit of Amber singing, “Remember the pain we put each other through?” and it made me think of elephants. I may have been thinking about elephants already because they are incredible creatures we should never forget (I have been told). But it fit what is the closest thing to a chorus in this song.
The elephant then reminded me of The Elephant Show, which I used to watch as a 3-5 year old. It was very musically important for me and it triggered a huge wave of sadness/nostalgia type feelings that inspired the higher pitched arpeggiating synth, taking the song in a much more melancholic direction.
I was probably eating Skittles® at this point and reading Wikipedia about the funeral habits of elephants, crying.
Then I worked on the drums. I always tap out the drums on a drum pad and quantize/edit afterwards to get a more live feel. I’ll usually manipulate everything a bit to try and create an interesting mix and then bounce it.
And lastly, here’s the elephant that inspired this song. This picture was the original album cover on SoundCloud:
Mean Lady‘s latest offering, “Far Away”, is the kind of song you play when you need a few minutes on a tropical island. Not forgetting the flight there, it gives you a solid minute of dreamy, waltzing keys to sit and gaze at the clouds from a small window. Then it lets you arrive, plunging into a gentle but infectious beat. The water here is the perfect temperature.
With its lush production, this song is difficult to listen to without moving. Katie Dill’s calm, confident vocals, reminiscent of Lauryn Hill, beckon you to smile coyly, looking everyone right in the eye, as she must surely be doing as she sings to you. Revealing her deepest fantasies, she remains plain-spoken and unashamed. The girlish content of her lyrics belies the fearlessness of her delivery. “Far Away” achieves the rare feat of striking a perfect balance between subtlety and magnetism.
Love Now, Mean Lady’s debut on Fat Possum, comes out July 23rd. Buy it and fall in love.
In his second week as May’s Artist Resident, Columbia, South Carolina’s Mat Cothran (aka Coma Cinema) shares a new song he recently recorded with close friend John Forest Klein (aka EUPHORIA. AGAIN.).
So a few weeks ago my friend John Forest Klein (or, as I call him, “JFK”) flew to South Carolina all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah to record an album with me. I’m a big fan of John’s music so I was stoked. Here’s the first song we finished. It’s called “Void In Time (mama says)”, and it’s one of my favorite songs this year.
mama says I’m lucky
just a void in time
lookin’ back in warm frames
really warps your mind
livin’ ain’t so easy with
a leash around my neck
time has got a hold of me
consider myself more a boy than a man
taken to the end
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