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Monthly Archives: October 2013

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The works of Mark Dorf came to my attention through a post in Aint-Bad Magazine.  His works created through digital collage, manipulation and 3D rendering and scanning formulates compositions that intrigue the eye.  The works some subtle others blatant create an urgency to understand the makeup of the image and what is at play.. Above are some images from his series Host and below are images from his series //_Path.

Click here to see more of his works.
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This Saturday I will be giving a talk about my practice and current research here in Athens.  Fellow resident Catriona Gallagher and myself will be giving short talks alongside opening up the studio for those that want to come and have a look see at to what we have been upto.

Here is the SNEHTA press release:

 

Snehta invites you to “Novel Reflections”, an open-studio and talks event by our current resident artists, Catriona Gallagher and Dickie Webb. Catriona and Dickie will each give a 20 minute presentation of their practice and research interests during their time in Athens. Throughout the evening the flat will function as an open studio so we welcome everyone to come and explore the artists’ research and creative practices.

Dickie will discuss his attraction to the liminal qualities within heterotopias and non-places and how these anthropomorphic spaces are utilised as metaphors. He will use past and present research of the Athenean landscape as a means to highlight the potential for looking forward and seeing post-since, making the most of the liminal space as a creative foundation in his practice. Dickie’s title for this presentation is: “Searching For Other And Finding Since”.

Catriona will discuss root ideas that have inspired her practice, from airfields and ports to weeds and floorboards, and examine ideas from previous work about preservation and heritage in light of her findings in Athens.

Snehta promotes and facilitates local and international artists through its residency and exhibitions programmes in Kypseli, Athens. Artists and other thinkers are selected through an open call to spend two months researching in Athens. Snehta stands for the name of the City of Athens written in reverse. This name metaphorically suggests that the artists involved are to rediscover Athens by reading and translating it alternatively. We emphasize for the programme and the resident artists to bring a renewed awareness of Athens to the audience through the works produced, exhibitions and events. The programme’s mission is to educate by spreading contemporary art practice whilst expanding artistic practices that present elements of innovation and experimentation.

SNEHTA, Aghias Zonis 1, Kypseli; Bell: A. Veinoglou, 2nd Floor
www.snehtaresidency.org || info@snehtaresidency.org

Facebook Event Click Here

Whilst here in Athens on the SNEHTA residency I have been introduced to a fair few local artists and creatives.  They have given me already new insights into ways to think about my current research and work.  One said conversation brought up the architect and composer Iannis Xenakis a point of this residency I will not forget as I feel quite annoyed at myself for not having heard about him before.  His architectural works and compositions are another level beyond where I am looking however to see how someone with his diverse skills and knowledge was able to do is incredible and exciting to consider where this path of work could take me.  

Here is an article written by Tom Service for The Guardian.

A guide to Iannis Xenakis’s music

The Greek composer trained as an architect, and created works of shattering visceral power that still astound today

Iannis Xenakis

‘Force of nature…’ Composer Iannis Xenakis photographed at his home in Paris, May, 2001. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

It sounds like something out of a film script. A Greek man in his early 20s fights for his homeland as part of the Communist resistance at the end of the second world war. Shrapnel from a blast from a British tank causes a horrendous facial injury that means the permanent loss of sight in one eye. He is sentenced to death after his exile to Paris (a sentence that was later commuted to a prison term, with his conviction finally quashed with the end of the junta in 1974). By the time he returns, he has become one of the leading creative figures of the century: an architect who trained, worked, and often transcended the inspiration of his mentor and boss, Le Corbusier; an intellectual whose physical and mathematical understanding of the way individual particles interact with each other and create a larger mass – atoms, birds, people, and musical notes – would produce one of the most fertile and prophetic aesthetic explorations in musical history; and above all a composer, whose craggily, joyously elemental music turned collections of pitches and rhythms and instruments into a force of nature, releasing a power that previous composers had only suggested metaphorically but which he would realise with arguably greater clarity, ferocity, intensity than any musician, before or since. This is the music of Iannis Xenakis.

When you hear Xenakis’s music – any piece of what we recognise as his mature work, starting with 1954’s Metastasis, onwards – you’re confronted with an aesthetic that seems unprecedented according to any of the frames of reference that musical works usually relate to. You won’t hear vestiges of things like familiar forms, or shapes, or languages. Even the furthest-out reaches of early 1950s serialism sound resolutely conventional next to Xenakis’s works of the same period. It’s music whose sheer, scintillating physicality creates its own territory in every piece, whether it’s for solo cello or huge orchestra. As Ben Watson has put it, Xenakis’s work is “an alien shard, glimmering in the heart of the West”. When Xenakis approached Olivier Messiaen in Paris for composition lessons, Messiaen turned him down, because, “I think one should study harmony and counterpoint. But this was a man so much out of the ordinary that I said… ‘No, you are almost 30, you have the good fortune of being Greek, of being an architect and having studied special mathematics. Take advantage of these things. Do them in your music’.”

And that’s exactly what Xenakis would do, and was already doing – which is both one explanation of his music’s shocking otherness (it was heard as “alien” even by the hipsters of the early 1950s; the 1955 premiere ofMetastasis at the Donaueschingen Festival was one of the scandals of postwar music) and a revelation of this music’s deep, primal rootedness in richer and older phenomena even than musical history: the physics and patterning of the natural world, of the stars, of gas molecules, and the proliferating possibilities of mathematical principles. Xenakis resisted the label of being a mere mathematician in music just as surely as he refused the idea of his music’s political or social message, and it was of course how he used those scientific principles (outlined in his book,Formalized Music) to create pieces of shattering visceral power.

His architectural output offers ways into his music’s imaginative world. Take the Philips Pavilion that Xenakis designed for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958 and for which he and Edgard Varèse wrote electronic music to animate its still gorgeously futuristic-looking parabolas, swoops, curves. The maths underlying its construction, and the shapes it makes, have a direct correlation in the way Xenakis uses the instruments of the orchestra in Metastasis, organising the entries of the instruments, and the pitches they play, according to the working-out of mathematical and statistical formulae, translating the space of architectural planes into musical time. (Take a look at his near-contemporary design for a “Cosmic City”, a gloriously sci-fi vision of the metropolis of the future – and what happens when Dan Dare meets curvy brutalism.) Xenakis also designed what he called “polytopes”, high-art son-et-lumière installationsthat involved his lighting designs, his sets, his music, and his sound projection to create vivid multi-media experiences, in places from Canada to Iran to Greece. And he designed a system for the conversion of graphic stimuli into sound, a programme he called UPIC and which has now morphed into more sophisticated computer software like IanniX. (More than a decade before Boulez founded IRCAM, Xenakis had set up his own institute for music-technological research in Paris called EMAMu, which now exists as CCMIX.)

Those are some clues to the elemental concerns of his music. But what happens when you hear his music goes beyond even the sensation of teeming natural phenomena or landscapes transmuted into music. Listen to this piece – Synaphaï – for piano and orchestra. You’ll hear a piano part of mind-bending complexity, which has the unique distinction, as far as I’m aware, of having a separate stave for each finger. You did read that right: Xenakis uses 10 staves in this piece. You’ll hear clouds of minutely detailed orchestral sonority wrap around the solo part, like flocks of small birds mobbing an avaricious raptor; and you’ll hear a near-continuous rhythmic intensity and textural violence that takes your breath away. Hearing this piece is as awesome an experience as watching some life-changing natural spectacle. Synaphaï has all the teeming unpredictable power of a glacier, the thrilling complexity of shape and movement of a mass animal migration.

But there’s something else as well. This music is expressive: not in a conventionally emotional way, perhaps, but it has an ecstatic, cathartic power. Xenakis’s music – and its preternaturally brilliant performers – allows its listeners to witness seismic events close at hand, to be at the middle of a musical happening of cosmic intensity. (That’s literally true in Terratektorh, in which the orchestra perform from within the audience – it would have been fun to be part of this performance conducted by Matthias Pintscher…) Xenakis has said that his war-time experience informed his desire to create his new kind of sound-experience. (He described the play of sirens, gunfire, and spotlights in Athens in the 1940s as like a “large-scale spectacle”) Yet his music sounds, to me at least, to be purged – or perhaps to be a purging – of the sort of existential darkness that György Ligeti’s music, say, never escapes. (Among the closest Xenakis comes to a direct emotional utterance is in his Nuits for chorus; music that sounds like a primordial cry, an impassioned scream.)

There’s a huge amount to discover in Xenakis’s music, and much of his vast output is out there on YouTube. Some highlights: the non-stop dynamism of Keqrops for piano and ensemble, the epic scale of the 75-minute long Kraanerg for ensemble and tape; the dagger-like pointillism of Khoai for solo harpsichord; or the devastating virtuosity of Tetras for string quartet. The piece that converted me, though, was Jonchaies for orchestra, composed in 1977, and quite simply one of the most exciting experiences you can have in music. Listen to it as loud as you can and convert all your neighbours to Xenakis too.

Jonchaies embodies the elemental truth about all of Xenakis’s music. Beethoven described nature in the Pastoral Symphony, Sibelius was terrified by it in Tapiola, but it took Xenakis for music to become nature. On holiday in Corsica, Xenakis would pilot his canoe into the teeth of the biggest storm he and his paddle could manage. When you’re listening to his music, you also go out there into the eye of a musical storm that will invigorate, inspire, and awe. See you out there…

Here is also a video of one of his works Metastasis

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Chris Sisarichs’ photograph series: Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere, really transport you.  Not to neccessarily the desert you know or the one you may have even seen but to an otherness.  These incredible photos still and captures of a life unknown by most and inexperienced.  They seem to play tricks on your mind where your thoughts are trying to piece together the elements and at times get confused between what you know and that of fiction.  To see more of the series or of his other work please click here.

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A lot of my research and hence exploits take place on foot, some planned others accidental.  My time here in Athens has been a mixture of both and will continue as such yet it is the accidental meetings with places and people that really strike a chord.  Two days ago after failing to find a place that wasn’t even open if I had I ended up riding the red line here on the Metro.  The metro in Athens to be honest is impeccable, marble floors and clean stations with a real mellow stress free flow, I guess that comes from being a modern addition yet enjoyable none the less.  I ended riding from one end of the line to the other which took just over half an hour.  I got out and only knew that at this station there was an area on the map that had barely any residential properties as I had done little well to honest no research.. I started walking I ended up coming across Ellinikon the old now abandoned international airport of Athens.  Probably the same airport I flew in to back in the 90’s with a school trip.

 

Exploring the outside of this building and vast support structures it was surreal.  A place so common with human activity void of anyone bar the one security guard and his trusty dogs running around the airstrip chasing pigeons.  The only other frequenters of this place seemed to be the mums and dad teaching their young ones to drive.  Using the endless road systems as practice for the urban roadways.  Ironic a little as if you have experienced Athens you will know the driving really is cut throat and nerves of steel are required to hold it together as scooters, trucks and cars vie for room and right of way.  Though this serene heterotopic space exists and functions as I do not know.  I have since been told it occasionally gets used for trade fairs for large ships etc due to the size of it.  However it currently seems fit for a Walking Dead film set due to its apocalyptic atmosphere.

It has been closed since 2001 and is the source of many new hopes and plans yet none are yet confirmed and hardly likely to considering the current economic climate.  However for me this is an ideal source for some new work and I will take some time and future visits whilst here to see what potential I may extract or filter from this site.

 

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