The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

The Body Is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

This has been one of our catchphrases this season—you’ve likely seen it on flyers, our website, and, if you’re regularly walking around UCLA, dotted on light poles across the campus. (More on our other two catchphrases in forthcoming entries)

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It’s a sort of rallying cry that we have applied specifically to enhance and encompass this year’s dance performances. But, when you sit with it for a minute it’s also a unifying sentiment that can be applied to life in general.

And this sentiment kept cropping up in my mind again and again as we interacted with the artists and artistry of Batsheva Dance Company. Our first dance performances of the weekend centered around this extraordinary group of artists as they celebrated 50 years in existence.

For much of that time (since 1990) Ohad Naharin has been the artistic director and many times over the course of multiple interactions with students and audiences while Batsheva was in residence  with us.

As I listened to him speak and encountered his work and the artists he works with, it was clear that Ohad essentially embodies the aforementioned rallying cry.

At every opportunity, Ohad talked about why there are no mirrors in the studios or rehearsal rooms in Batsheva’s home complex in Tel Aviv, and why the company covers up mirrors wherever they travel.

Mirrors are great for some things, Ohad said, speaking to a room of UCLA World Arts and Cultures students, they’re essentially important for your dentist to use for example, he said with a chuckle.

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But they serve no purpose for dance, he said. He trains his dancers to develop a powerful perception and ownership of their own bodies in space and time, and instead of checking their form in a mirror, they instead are seeing their fellow dancers more wholly.

A few days later, speaking to the crowd who would soon be viewing Sadeh21 in Royce Hall and who had just experienced a new work from former Batsheva dancer and now L.A.-based choreographer/performer Danielle Agami, he reiterated this statement, even more strongly.

“Mirrors are destroying our souls and really slowing us down as artists,” he said. “This is not an opinion, it is a fact.”

Ohad also responded to a question from a student about what kind of “body style” he looks for in dancers.

He said he does not look for any certain body style. “Body style cannot tell you about a person’s creativity, their passion, their generousity…body style is not important.”

This elicited applause, in the form of students snapping their fingers, which piqued Ohad.

“Why did you do that? Why do you snap your fingers?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“It means we’re agreeing with you, ” one student replied.

Ohad then revealed that he asks that students or participants do not clap at the end of a Gaga class, instead, if they’re feeling inclined to celebrate the moment with sound he has them snap their fingers.

Gaga, the incredibly free and freeing movement style that Ohad developed as a training tool for dancers and which he has subsequently extended to invite participants from every walk of life all over the world.

I participated in a Gaga workshop for the public, led by one of the current Batsheva dancers, the incredible Bobbi Smith,  who, it became clear as the practice progressed, is a being of pure light and love. (If you saw the performance of Sadeh21, she was the red-leotard-clad dancer who executed an extended headstand while writhing and twisting her legs above her in perfect control.)

As I moved among the varied people gathered in the Royce Hall rehearsal room, mirrors covered by black velvet curtains, as we all moved with our own kind of abandon, following Bobbi’s simple instructions that led us to investigate movement in parts of our bodies in ways we might not otherwise instigate, I thought of our unifying sentiment:

The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

No one is allowed to passively watch or photograph a Gaga session. If you want to be there, you must participate.

The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

As I looked around the room of strangers, some dancers, some not, some performers, some not, I feel like we were all embodying that rallying cry.

Several of the dancers from the aforementioned Ate9 Dance Company were part of that session. It was interesting to move among them in this way, after being a silent observer of their craft and skill the night before on the Royce Terrace.

Sometimes wild and frenetic, other times ruminative, other times sharply punctuated, other times chattering non sequiters, or simply picking up chairs and handing them to unsuspecting watchers  Danielle Agami’s dancers moved through the crowd. We moved with them, as a sort of serpentine organism seeking to turn its head toward the light.

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The Body is Beautiful. Get Used to It.

It was a really special moment. The Batsheva dancers, just before they were about to take the stage themselves, perched atop a brick structure on the terrace, watching the dancers shapes and movement continually shape and re-shape the audience itself.

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Other people have spoken more eloquently about the Batsheva performance  of Sadeh21 itself. It left me personally very moved and feeling like, this company, this moment in time, this expeirence was the perfect way to set the tone for our sentiment about dance and the body.

We’ll be exploring this concept and more throughout the season as we begin work with the incredible Deborah Hay, on a project titled “Re-writing the language of dance.” With Deborah’s help we will work across broad artistic and community territories to explore the Los Angeles dance ecology and develop strategies for increased involvement and synergy.

All of this begins in two weeks, with a special event titled “Reorganizing Ourselves,” a conversation in three parts about perception, consciousness and the connection between art and science with Deborah,  Berkeley professor of philosophy Alva Noe and dance curator dance curator Michèle Steinwald.

We’re curious and excited to see what reveals itself as we reach out more cohesively than ever before to our local dance community. We want to know what people are thinking about the body, what role movement and art as exhibited bodies in motion is playing in our immediate arts culture, and how we can harness the potential of contemporary dance to push our culture ever forward.

The body, is in fact beautiful. The sooner we all get used to it, and perhaps revel in it, and support those who celebrate it…the better.

 

 

Unpacking Daisies

Ronnie Burkett has arrived, along with crate upon crate of the lovingly packed wooden creatures who comprise the cast of The Daisy Theatre.

Last night, during setup at the Actor’s Gang theater in Culver City, Ronnie and his stage manager extraordinaire Crystal Salverda mulled over the precise placement of each puppet, strategically selecting where each one will delicately dangle around the Daisy stage—where they will be found waiting in the wings, slightly shifting at any small breeze.

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Ronnie has a sketch of a plan for every performance, but with dozens of characters to choose from, must prepare for anyone to take the stage–sometimes he even lets the audience vote on who they’d most like to see.

After watching him unpack the glorious Diva opera singer marionette, I felt slightly regretful that, when I saw a performance of The Daisy Theatre in Vancouver a year ago, I cheered for the “Horny Librarian” option over the portly bespectacled glitter-heeled goddess I met last night.

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And yes, there is a horny librarian in the cast. She was delightful. Who knows if she will show up this time around. Come to recall, there’s quite a bit of horniness in the show here and there. Not egregiously so, but definitely hilarity inducing.

I scoped out the Actor’s Gang theater from multiple vantage points. There’s not a bad seat in the place. It’s a stage within a stage within a stage and you’ll be able to take it all in.

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Last night, one of our new photographers in residence Tim Hailand was on hand to document Ronnie’s setup process. We’ll share some shots from his artistic lens later.

I’m excited to see the shows, see who makes it to the stage and what they do in their moment in the spotlight.

 

A Journey Through and With Ryoji Ikeda

A message from Kristy Edmunds for the evening’s program notes. 

Ryoji Ikeda: superposition. Royce Hall Nov. 7, 2014

I have had the great pleasure of working with Ryoji Ikeda over the span of a nearly 20 year arc. I first experienced his work in the context of an artist collective in Kyoto, Japan, called DumbType. I had seen their performance entitled “S/N” in 1994 at On the Boards in Seattle, Washington and was at the formative stage of my own career as a curator/artistic director.

DumbType was unique in their cross-discipline approach. They weren’t “blurring boundary lines” between art forms exactly, they were compressing many sources of artistic intelligence into a specific form. Their projects were stunning – quite literally. While we were grappling with floppy disks, dial-ups and beginning to say farewell to the marvels of our beepers and fax machines – Ryoji and his contemporaries were generating dimensional aesthetic poetry for the stage, the screens and for the gallery cubes that sought to frame their dynamic exploration.

I for one, had absolutely no idea what I was experiencing when I saw that first work – but I understood it was brilliant and it left me with a wonderment that soon converted into a recognition that I would have to galvanize something in my community in order for it to be seen. I started the Portland institute for Contemporary Art in the spring of 1995.

In 1999 we presented DumbType’s project entitled, “OR” and again in 2002 with “memorandum.” When I took up the position of Artistic Director at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, I invited Ryoji to perform and screen two of his pieces: “C4I” and “Formula” in 2005; with DumbType returning in the 2006 Melbourne Festival with “Voyage.”

By 2010, I was consulting artistic director at the Park Avenue Armory in New York and Ryoji was living in Paris, I commissioned an immersive installation entitled,  “the transfinite” which premiered in April of 2011. Below is an excerpt of my introduction to this installation

“In ‘the transfinite,’ Ryoji Ikeda takes the pursuits and structures of mathematics as one ‘material’ for his aesthetic and does so with monumental and poetic result. At the center of the work is his sonic and visual re-purposing of binary code: 0 and 1. These numbers form the string codes used to represent all information in the digital world. While few of us understand just how the intricacies of this works, we are impacted by it in every conceivable way and on a daily basis.

Ikeda is drawn to that which is at the edge of comprehensibility and human perception and he distills it into an experience we can viscerally and physically connect to. In so doing, he also offers us a tangible glimpse into the sublime purity that exists within mathematics.”

I think this continues to provide insight into his continuing explorations, now involving the language of physics, and Einstein’s theory: “superposition.”

Having with Ryoji for many years, I am interested in his return to the incorporation of live performers on the stage as a part of his immersive sonic and visual environments. So too, the conjoining of his work within the legacy of Royce Hall itself. A stage where the multiple languages and lineages of art, poetry, poetic and scholarly thought are steeped into its history located within the confines of a major research institution known worldwide for its contributions to mathematics and data.

I think it is worthy of mention, Einstein himself stood on this very same stage, a fact I cannot wait to share with Ryoji.

In both cases, and certainly the many other artists, scholars and innovators who have spanned the distance in between these two men and their ephemeral footprints – this is a place where we illuminate the existence of endless possibility.

Thank you for being here.

Kristy

Celebrating Batsheva

It’s been a whirlwind October, beautifully concluded by an extended series of performances and events in honor of Batsheva Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

We’re very grateful to all our members for your support of and participation with this company. It is a huge undertaking to present international companies, one that requires bringing all our resources and energy to bear, weathering unexpected and uninvited surprises such as a back up at the customs dock here in Los Angeles. The Batsheva set arrived in the nick of time, but only after much rallying and hoop jumping by the company and us as the presenter.

If you attended the performance, you know just how important that set was. The final images of those beautiful beautiful dancers, perpetually climbing the back wall, facing us, driving toward us, then flinging themselves away with abandon and strength, only to march forward again….the memory of that will stay with me. It spoke to me of effort and release, of striving and accepting, of work and gratefulness.

Many thanks to Roslyn Holt Swartz for hosting an In Conversation event with Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin  for Artist Circle members and above. He was generous with his time and spirit and brought an acute and inspiring perspective of his craft. We’re lucky to have been able to share some time with him over the course of the presentation.

For those of you who were able to join us for our Batsheva post-show reception, thank you for helping us congratulate, receive and celebrate this extraordinary company.

It was a very special way to launch our season of dance, and it was an opportunity to lay some groundwork for our commitment to building demand for dance in this city. We will be relying on our members to help us in this effort as we seek to galvanize the Los Angeles Dance community around ideas and possibilities for dance here.

Here are some highlights of the afterparty. We’ll see more of you soon!

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Digging Deeper into Ryoji Ikeda and “superposition”

INTERVIEW : Ryoji Ikeda and Peter Weibel,  Austrian artist, curator and theoretician

 Recorded at ZKM Karlsruhe on 31 July 2012 by Manuel WeberTranscription by Wolfgang Knapp

PW:         First, thank you for the time and opportunity to speak about your work. My first question would be the title: superposition. Are you referring to the quantum mechanical idea or are you referring to the cinema where you work with superpositions. What is the idea behind the title?

RI:           I have never specified anything. How did you feel when you heard the word ‚superposition’? I am very curious about how people can have an impression when they hear ‚superposition’.

PW:         Well, I would think of the wave function of Schrödinger, from quantum mechanics. Then I would think of the super-imposing of image on image and then I would think of the observer who has a position superior to anything else.

RI:           Because you are a very intellectual person. When you hear the word superposition, you are inspired. But, for example, my mother just think “Super!” “Position!”. The word has a very wide spectrum and I think that’s good. People can get many meanings. And of course, I am obsessed by that notion of a quantum mechanical meaning. And also, the other superposition principle, the fundamental principle of physics. For example, the harmonics that superpose and that makes our voice and sound. Like an analysis and a basis.

PW:         So you are also thinking of musical notations? Of the superimposition of frequences?

RI:           Yes, exactly. But the core topic to me is really the newest one — the quantum mechanical meaning, the fundamental characteristic of quantum physics.

PW:         Since when are you interested in the quantum nature of reality? And why?

RI:           I read some books when I was a student. Of course, it was really difficult and pretty counterintuitive. But it stunned me to discover quantum mechanics. After then I became an artist, but it was absolutely impossible to describe quantum mechanics for my art. It’s simply impossible. So, I am just making a piece of art. It’s a performing art piece, which never explains quantum mechanics. It is rather inspired by quantum mechanics. It’s just art. But some of the expressions are scientifically totally correct. I use lots of data sets from NASA and so on, but the construction, the composition is very intuitive because I am an artist. So, it’s hybrid.

PW:         I see. I can imagine that when you have to make a decision between the classical world view – that means causality and mechanics – and quantum mechanics, I think that, as an artist, the idea of uncertainty or of many different possible worlds is more attractive. I think all these possible worlds give us – as artists – more freedom.

RI:           Yes, but quantum mechanics is just the science for a very very small scale, at atomic scale order. It’s about nature. About how we see our nature. As in cosmology the level is really macroscopic but in quantum mechanics it is very microscopic. Really tiny, tiny. At such an extreme microscopic level, classical physics doesn’t work. I think that’s it. Then I came to qubit (quantum bit = quantum binary digit) and the quantum mechanical information through pure mathematics because I was totally obsessed by mathematics. Number theory, set theory, proof theory and meta-mathematics etc. And I was very obsessed by the philosophical problem of “the continuous and the discrete”. And then I discovered that in between 0 and 1 there is such an uncountable and unthinkable infinity. Just between 0 and 1. This is just pure mathematics and this problem has been discussed since Plato’s era for many years. And I was very much obsessed by this problem for a really long time – actually since I was a child – before I discovered quantum mechanics. When I think about the real number 0.00000001…. and then again 0.000000012, 0.000000013, 0.000000014 … it’s crazy. Our human logic is basically discrete. We can’t grasp the concept of continuous line (continuum). It’s platonic. Line means a collection of points. But a point has no parts as Euclid said. I was very obsessed by that and then I encountered Quantum bit — so-called Qubit. Classical bit, which is a building block of information and computers, means 0 or 1, Yes or No, Black or White. Qubit means 0 and 1 at the same time, which is called “state of superposition”. It’s almost impossible to imagine for us. The mathematical model of a qubit is a sphere where you can point infinitely many points onto/into and everything is superposed at the same time. So my brain kind of exploded when I encountered the quantum information and the qubit. But this notion emerged from the applied science, but now applied science, pure science, art – everybody gets together. Especially quantum research – quantum field, cosmology, quantum mechanics of course and then the quantum information, computer science. And I met many scientists and mathematicians around that topic. The key word ‘quantum’ gathered a new team and that is really exciting for me. Through the great meetings with many scientists working in that field they inspired me to make this piece (superposition) and you will see it on Sunday.

PW:         Until now, it is pretty clear that artists have oriented themselves  towards macro-phenomena and physics – which are scientifically correct. But now you are moving forward to the micro-phenoma where laws of classical physics don’t function anymore. I see you are moving into a new area of atomic or molecular scale. There, we have not only to do with materials but also with information. When you mentioned that you met many scientists did you also meet people like Lloyd and other people who are thinking about working with a quantum computer?

RI:           I saw the quantum computer in Canada. Three types of quantum computers. They are just like fridge or tank. You have to cool it down to stabilize for a precise observation of the spins of electrons, or you have to form an ultra strong magnetic field to read the spin of nuclei. Quantum computing is very interesting because it is a computer but only in the notion, the concept. The point is how to read the spin of an electron, photon or whatever. It’s not like hardware. This is very exciting for me. Radical.

PW:         There is a very famous Japanese scientist who wrote a little book on the spin and even won the Nobel Prize for it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his quite difficult name.

RI:           Nor do I. But that field is very exciting.

PW:         Are you also interested in observation? In the idea of relativity and observation?  You use your ideas to investigate a new theory of reality.  You use quantum mechanics to give us a new idea about the nature of reality.

RI:           Yeah, but I can’t apply that concept to the stage art because we have to fix the audience here. But for the installation piece of superposition, I am thinking about it.

PW:         The people who help you working on the superposition performance – your assistants; are they programmers? Musicians? What is their profession?

RI:           They are basically programmers. And architects and all kinds of artists. They are very young, in their twenties. They can program almost in every language. Super.

PW:         Does your interest in music also come from mathematics?

RI:           No, I am basically a composing musician. I just love music and dedicate myself to it for a long time. Then I discovered that music and mathematics are sisters. I discovered a certain beauty from the structure – with Bach, for example – and at the same time harmonics as a physical phenomenon as a sound. Sound is not music, it’s just sound. It’s not music which has a grammar, a structure which is sometimes purely mathematical. Anyway, I like music, I like sound because it’s invisible. And that’s why I really like to make something invisible visible. I am not really a visual artist but I try. I don’t want to fix my position. I’m just an artist. I am free. I can make stage art, an exhibition, a concert, public art…

PW:         Do you see yourself in the tradition from Phytagoras to Xenakis? Is it a tradition you belong to? You mentioned Bach but there is also Xenakis, who worked with computers.

RI:           I can’t believe it. It is such a long time ago. Some hundred years before Plato, there   were mathematics and music, even before we had philosophy. It’s so pure.

PW:         So, you don’t make any difference between music and sound. You feel well in both. Normally people say: well this is sound or this is music. You wouldn’t say you are either a sound artist or a musician. You are both.

RI:           There is no clear definition of what is sound, of what is music, of what is art. My feeling is the essential beauty of music is structure. And the sound of course – as people like John Cage and others suggest – is how to listen to sound. This is very intellectual, a very radical attitude. Even the sound of waves can be enjoyable for us. It’s attitude. We don’t even need any machines for it, for sound art. But music is very different. You know, for example my cat and dog react to sound. But music, we are not sure if animals can really perceive music the same way as we do. So, music is very much a human invention and we only can appreciate the harmony and the beauty of the structure. And that is very mathematical. Of course, music is not a rational thing. Xenakis, of course, but Boulez or those kind of people, they put little priority to the theme but, structurally, it can be very beautiful. Like a poem.

PW: As an artist there is a famous problem named by Pierre Schaeffer – the founder of musique concréte.  He wanted to make clear that a sound should lose its origin. That we don’t say “This is the sound of a car or of a cat” but that we turn the sound into music. Because when you say this sound is a broken glass or a car, this is an anecdote. How did you solve this problem as an artist?

RI:           That’s why I distill. My language, my alphabet is sine waves, square waves, white noise etc and is very reduced because I try not to be trapped. I just have a very simple alphabet – maybe A, B, C and maybe 1, 2, 3, 4… and then I can emphasize more on the compositional structure. But I have a very good relationship to GRM (Le Groupe de recherches musicales where was founded by Pierre Schaeffer). I live in Paris and I listened to the entire-archive of Pierre Schaeffer. Actually I had a key to their studio. Very nice people. Not like IRCAM which is very big but GRM is only five or six people. Usually in academic community you have a top-down system but GRM is pretty much “bottom-up”. There are artisans and engineers with a very good sense and it became art. Actually, I have no preference. I like both

PW:         You mean top-down as well as bottom-up?

RI:           Exactly. It´s always nice to encounter both. Of course top-down is a little bit too much but it is working very good – like in universities and in very scientific research. Only academical work can do that or at NASA and on this kind of very big scale. But with very experimental things with lots of trial and errors – for artist or engineers for example who explore new things – it is different. I like both.

PW:         Your argument about structure is very relevant because from time to time I am sitting in some jury for a competition together with Pierre Boulez. He says when he listens to electronic music: it is not structured, it is not music, it is just sound. I think you know this problem and therefore emphasize on structure.

RI:           Yes, of course. But if only structure is important, we don’t need the sound, just the notation. So, extreme contemporary music is like this. They have a big paradox. They have a certain beauty of score, but maybe they don’t need the sound. They are very technically-detailed but they don’t have sound.

PW:         …and that is not enough!

RI:           But I understand it. That is also exciting. But without sound.

PW:         When you have only structure you don’t need sound.

RI:           It’s funny. Music without sound. That is academic music.

PW:         But anyway you like the beauty of graphical notation, but it is dangerous.

RI:           As I said, I like both. The very academic which has certain beauty and intellectuality on their score, and the very “street-level” which has certain physical strength. We need both anyway. If I were trapped in the academic, I would die. If I only work for the underground scene, it would be chaos.

PW:         You are touching a very crucial problem, which was posed by Stockhausen who was here at ZKM several times. We had a lot of discussions and he said “Peter, I am the first real composer. Because I have made the music. Beethoven and Bach and Mozart they only wrote papers but they did not produce what they wrote. On the paper there was structure and time and everything, but not music not even sound. I am the first one who can say that I really made these 120 hours of music, sitting in the studio, mixing it myself.” And I think that you are in the tradition of Stockhausen, producing real music in a studio instead of just writing a score. What is your opinion about this?

RI:           Yes, I think I am more that type. Working in the studio with real sound.

PW:         You produce music and sound in the studio where it is real sound. What you produce is a finished product completely designed by you. Or do you also write scores so that somebody else – for example after your death – could use it and do it in another way? Do you leave a visual score? Or don’t you do that?

RI:           This is a little bit difficult. It is like a painting. When the painter is putting colour on the canvas it is his own hand. Stockhausen or other electronic musicians like me we struggle with something. I complete a unique thing and it cannot be performed by anybody else. It’s like a painting. We have lots of instruments, which we can use very precisely to make it. And that’s it.

PW:         So, you are on the side of Stockhausen.

RI:           Yes, but if it is only that, it would be a little bit sad. We have only my own huge archive and no collaboration with musicians. So this time it is a challenge for me because I hired two percussionists. I let them perform. And I also wrote for an orchestra before but I didn’t really like it. I am not a trained composer or musician. Anyway, this time there are 2 persons on stage, which is a real challenge for me. There are 10 computers and 22 screens on the stage, and this is my visual ensemble but with two humans on stage which are very difficult to control. That’s the parameter of randomness – human. We are the most random creatures. We cannot perform precisely, on a millisecond level. Impossible. And that gap is very interesting for me. If it is a computer it is precise. It is beautiful but we are missing something. So now I am playing on that level and it is very interesting.

PW:         I have a last question for you as an artist. How do you solve the following problem? Morton Feldman – the wonderful composer from America – whom I know personally from my time in Buffalo – he said that music is structure. Normally it is time based structure. But he disliked most kind of music because it is such a slave of time. Rhythm and beat – these things control the music. The time tells music what to do. But Feldman wanted to destroy this control. He wanted music that is not a slave of time. How do you solve this problem? Can we accept this slavery of time or can we create a music that is superior? A music that destroys our structure of time? What is your tendency?

RI:           I really like most of Feldman’s music and his philosophy and thinking is just great but I can’t really follow him. And after John Cage and after that generation, you know, and the generation of computer and programming, my direction is super-precise, is “control”.

PW:         So, no chance experiments like Cage. Control instead of chance.

RI:           I try to control randomness. Like in a computer. You need to control the randomness.

PW:         This is also about Chaitin, who wrote about algorithmic randomness.

RI:           Great work!

PW:         This is more on your side.

RI:           Yes, if we are free of the time-based composition actually, we can’t handle it. It is very difficult to achieve and to appreciate it as music because there is no structure.

PW:         That means when you work as a composer with the computer you have a time-based structure given through the computer. In video, we have even a time-based corrector because the scene would not function without this time-based code.

RI:           I am more following my nature. Control. I follow more and I add randomness and this is a counterpoint that is very big, an encounter of randomness and control. The contrast is more interesting. If you really control a millisecond there is another possibility, even if it is microscopic. You can’t perceive it directly but as a whole if you pay very close attention it changes the whole thing. So, I try to put some randomness and I like to see the counterpoint, the counterbalance. It is a big experiment and I try to find a new aesthetic from this point.

PW:         Do you also read and think about the way how the brain perceives acoustics, what we now call neuroacoustics? Is it also something that interests you? Because my ideas are as follows: We know now that all the data coming through our senses are a temporary code. The spike train is just a temporal code, like decoding second by second. So, experience is in fact a kind of music. Because it all has a time-based structure, a time-based code. Do you think about how music could create new intuitions and emotions? When I listen to music this is what I feel. The supercontrol of time. The kind of superimposition of my own cerebral time-based code and what you impose on me and my brain. The creation of a new kind of altered state of consciousness.

RI:           I can’t be objective to what I am doing because I am the maker. So, people can judge. This piece will be touring in the next couple of years and I will continue updating it all over the world. After the première at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, I will be showing the piece in Europe, Asia, Japan and USA. Anyway, this time here at ZKM is very precious to me. Otherwise I could not have finished this piece

PW:         Are you also interested in sonification, when artists try to find new ways through sonification?

RI:           I was invited by NASA to give a lecture about sonification. But still, I am not a  scientist. I am just an artist. Everything is intuitive. I can analyse but this part is not my job.

PW:         Is it inspiring? To listen to them?

RI:           It is very practical. I prefer to see more crazy people. At NASA,   using lots of data. Everything is amazing, everything is very practical but it’s not about new ideas. I like to explore new things. So, this is not so exciting for me.

PW:         It’s not musical enough. Mathematics…

RI:           Mathematics is crazy. Even though it is pure, it is so crazy. Theoretical Physics – they use a lot of mathematics but the goal is to reveal our nature, the subject is our nature. Natural science. Even quantum mechanics, astronomy, cosmology etc. – the topic is nature. Mathematics is different. It is not about nature. They easily break the rules of nature. Their subject is forms, magnitudes and numbers, etc. It is crazy.

PW:         As an accoustic artist, how do you see the problem of Schönberg, who in his late times in his book “Style and Harmony“ stated that the problem of the composer is to come from one note to the next note.  So, you don’t work with notes but with waves, continuous sine waves. A note is a discrete model. Then you could say this note is a point on a score. But you don’t have this problem, do you?

RI:           Of course, I use sine waves, pure waves or whatever but if you try to reduce things utmost microscopic level it gets impulse. It’s like a singular vertical straight line in mathematical functions on Cartesian plane. Just one point is infinite. So, you reduce the waveform to its function, to just one line. This point is very very tiny and is called the impulse. This is interesting because it is so short and when you listen to this sampling you don’t hear it. It is too short. The point makes the acoustics. Sine waves are continuous, they have no direction. They never contribute to the acoustics. For example, there is a speaker somewhere and a sine tone you don’t understand where it comes from.

PW:         It is ubiquitous. I see.

RI:           You feel it everywhere and it kind of kills the acoustics.

PW:         That’s a very good idea. When you have a line this will be the peak and this will be the impulse. Very good idea.

RI:           The opposite is white noise which is random. That’s a different thing but I use lots of impulse as you will hear. An impulse, for example, if I make a sound installation or something, it can be very elaborate. I never use one hundred speakers like Stockhausen. No. Mono! At the center in a church or somewhere large space, maybe I just put impulse on a single mono speaker. That would make you feel the very accoustics spatially through some rich reverb occurred by that very short impulse.

PW:         I see. The acoustics of a wave is a kind of point you…

RI:           … you slice

PW:         Exactly.

RI:           Any point.

PW:         Brilliant idea.

RI:           I discovered this.

PW:         So this is your own discovery?

RI:           Well. I discovered it working together with Carsten Nicolai. We researched on this for ten years. I send you a book. We discovered many waveforms and we showed this to the scientists and they said ‘wow’. And if you put that sound to an interface you have a figure. All kinds of figures: triangular and sometimes even 3D. Only by waveforms. Carsten and I spent a lot of work in this. More than sound design, this is fundamental research on sound waves.

PW:         So this is a kind of new series of harmony. Different.

RI:           Yeah. It’s different. The beauty of a waveform is mathematical.

PW:         You see it as a composition.

RI:           If you analyse the phase and the correlations it is beautiful but the sound is sometimes horrible. It is so harsh. You can’t stand it. That’s interesting.

PW:         The picture is beautiful but the sound is horrible…

RI:           And if it is a beautiful tone it is boring to see. No pattern. But a pure interesting geometrical form you just can’t listen to it. It is so harsh. … We (Carsten Nicolai and RI) cut tiny parts and recomposed for this and that, we are now preparing an installation piece for this but I don’t know what the next ten years will bring.

PW:         So I see that you are now investigating not only a new organisation of sounds but a new series of harmonies on a technical and mathematical basis.

RI:           Yes. That is my basic research. This is not really the work of an artist but basic research for basic knowledge to find my language. To develop my alphabet and the grammar is my structure, my music. And I don’t want to use the normal alphabet.

PW:         Did you ever read Schillinger? A New York artist from the 1930s who wrote a book on mathematical theory of music. A long time ago…

RI:           Yes, I think it passed my desk somehow.

PW:         Well, Ryoji Ikeda. Thank you very much for this interesting talk.

RI:           Thank you

 

Batsheva Dance Company 50th Anniversary: ‘Sadeh21′ Royce Hall Nov. 1-2

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes.

Performative movement, the practice of dance, or even just standing up from a chair, can be about collapse as much as precision. Training his dancers to collapse into the abilities of the body and using bodies in movement to reveal and to convince is a constant in his work, Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin told a group of students, faculty and staff in a special artist talk on campus this week.

He also broached the concept of echo, and how he as a choreographer likes to explore movement that embraces and refines echo, which has the potential to be unleashed and
expressed so uniquely by any given individual body in motion.

The body can echo. The concepts and ideas behind a work of dance can echo through us as the audience long after the performance has ended.

And indeed, the legacy and influence and artistry of one of the world’s greatest dance companies certainly echoes— across languages, lineages, cultures, geographies, and tonight throughout this hall and within each of us.

We are extremely proud to be part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Batsheva Dance Company. The impact this institution has had on the world of dance is profound, and called for a series of programs and moments to create additional echo throughout our local community of dance artists and audiences.

We were fortunate to spend some time earlier this week on campus to hear Ohad speak about his background and aesthetic, and hosted two Gaga workshops open to students and the public.

The dancers performed Sadeh21 andanswered questions from local high school students in a Design for Sharing demonstration performance, making an impact on young emerging arts lovers and potential artists.

Part of tracing the echo of Batsheva for us also involved connecting with Danielle Agami, former Batsheva dancer and founder/director of local company Ate9. Danielle created a beautiful installation work in honor of Batsheva for the Saturday night program.

We also took the presentation of this influential company as an opportunity to start building a deeper dialogue with dance practitioners from across Los Angeles, with a special “Dance Gathering” preview performance at which we hope to begin forging new connections and inspiring new conversations about dance in our city.

For now, this weekend we celebrate Batsheva with the U.S. premiere performances of Sadeh21, a piece that serves as a wonderful introduction to the company for those who may have never seen Batsheva perform before, but also embodies the rich history and tradition of an institution that has reached a major milestone in the art of performance.

Welcome Batsheva, and welcome to you all.

Warhol, Exposed. Us, Together.

We stirred things up a bit last Friday night here at Royce Hall.

It seemed appropriate, considering the stage that night  was home to live music from an uber-eclectic smattering of modern music artists merged with home movie-esque video footage from the 60s, shot by the one and only Andy Warhol. One of my favorites included shots of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, capering around a couch at The Factory  while punk god Martin Rev unleashed a revved up solo instrumental barrage of sound.

This was another good one too, just a few minutes of an “unidentified man” drinking a coke. Paired with Rev’s high-velocity “Sugar Baby” instrumental, a simple act performed by an exceptional-looking person became artistically mesmerizing.

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Another choice moment of the performance was Eleanor Friedberger’s gentle and loving “All Known Things” set to screen test footage of the luminous Edie Sedgwick. It was so beautiful, a moment gloriously rendered in sound and celluloid. It made me happy and nostalgic, and it made me think about how fleeting youthful beauty is.

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Speaking of beauty, we saw it in spades that night, both onstage and off. For our pre-and post-show activities, we set up a giant screen on the terrace and asked partygoers to step behind it for two minutes of minimal movement—a la Warhol’s famed screen tests.

It was very endearing to stare at these faces, faces of strangers and friends alike. Sometimes it was joyful, sometimes it was meditative, sometimes their faces conveyed deep longing and pensiveness, some stifled laughter as their friends called out to them from the other side of the screen. It was an exposition, an exposé, each person was completely exposed on a large-scale screen, and were required to simply sit and look into the confronting single eye of a camera, without really knowing what pieces of them were being exposed on the other side.

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(Many thanks for the students from the campus TV station ResTV Channel 22 for their amazing work on the live screen tests.)

With some help from our talented friends at Snap Yourself, those amazing faces could take home a Warholized memento of the evening, via our on site Pop Art photo booth.

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There’s something about Andy Warhol. Something about his way of being in the world that invited and continues to invite us to expose ourselves to art in different ways, to be OK with liking the things we like, no matter how or where they land on the scale of pop art, fine art, high brow or otherwise.

At least, that’s what Warhol’s words and work have always done for me. I’m grateful for the very specific kind of  color and vibrancy he brought to the art world, and how inviting and fun he has made it feel for me. And I’m really grateful that CAP UCLA was able to be part of his ongoing legacy. We were early partners with the Warhol Museum and BAM on this unique performance project.

And generally, it was just a great party, a wonderful moment to hang out with what was the coolest audience of the year (thus far).

So thanks for coming out, thanks for snapping yourself, for exposing yourself, for making some pop art with us around here.

Let’s do it again soon.

Here’s me–Warholized. ;-)

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Photos by Phinn Sriployrung and Meryl Friedman.

‘Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films’ Royce Hall Friday October 25, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes. 

“There’s so many different angles you can come at Warhol,” Eleanor Friedberger recently said in a Billboard Magazine interview about Exposed. “He never really goes out of style.”

Indeed, he does not. You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist, or pop culture enthusiast, or possibly any living human who doesn’t harbor some kind of frame of reference or relationship to the life and work of Andy Warhol. His fame has extended well beyond his prescient and oft-quoted “15 minutes” observation.

Part of the impetus around the creation of tonight’s program is a celebration of the institution that has done so much to keep Andy Warhol’s iconic legacy at the forefront of the artistic and pop culture world. This year The Andy Warhol Museum marks its 20th anniversary. We were incredibly proud to partner with them and with BAM on the commissioning of “Exposed.”

Tonight is one of just three live-performances scheduled for this exceptional program, a marriage of sound and celluloid, brought together to create a wholly new installation that we, as the audience will become the permanent caretakers of.

And tonight yeilds another moment in which we can sustain our own relationship to Andy Warhol’s work, aided by five innovative composer-performers hand-picked by guest music curator Dean Wareham.

Dean is no stranger to working with Warhol visuals, having created, along with his artistic and life partner Britta Phillips, the score to “13 Most Beautiful,” a song cycle composed and performed to a selection of Warhol’s famous screen tests.

The films you will see tonight were discovered in a Pennsylvania warehouse just as Wareham was plotting with the Museum on a potential follow up to “13 Most Beautiful. “They are more personal and less stylized than Warhol’s screen tests, more like home movies, describes Ben Harrison, curator of performing arts at the Warhol Museum.

We think that’s part of the great appeal. Warhol has captured a unique series of moments in time, and we have the good fortune to be able to come together to view and experience them in yet another ephemeral moment in the art of performance.

That never really goes out of style either.

Thanks for being here.

Behind “Exposed”

Tonight we play host to a truly unique moment in the art of performance.”Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films” is a marriage of sound and celluloid that has been a long time in the making, and its arrival to the Royce stage tomorrow marks one of those especially gratifying moments as a curator, when the dreaming of a few coalesces into an extraordinary experience for many.

A couple of years ago I was approached by a great colleague, Ben Harrison, at the Andy Warhol Museum about co-commissioning this project (then untitled, and then just a concept). They had located a number of Warhol’s short films in their collection that were related to the “Screen Tests” he filmed quite regularly, but were of a somewhat different nature. More like a cinema portrait in a way than a “screen test” – but that is a nuance I have likely invented as a way to officially organize it in my own mind. (As one does.)

Ben had been involved in the development of the precursor to “Exposed,” which was called “13 Most Beautiful” – the cinema screen tests shot by Andy, which had Dean & Britta performing live in a concert setting. Dean Wareham and Britta composed the music and if I recall (this was 2006 I think),  were part of the creative force that conceived the idea to begin with. It toured extensively, and I saw it in Sydney years ago.

Wareham, this time around, wanted to broaden out the music collaborators, so for this project, he is both the curator/music director and also a composer/performer. I guess that is four roles rather than two!

What I loved hearing about, behind the scenes as the project started to take shape, was the restoration process of the films themselves from the conservators at the Warhol museum, and their insights about the pieces of cinema along with the film curator.

Of course getting updates on which musicians were then engaged and what they were working on and how it was taking shape was also pretty exciting.

So, here we are, two years later – restored Warhol films, a massive amount of music and artistry that has come together for a three – city engagement after so much detailing and creative time has been spent behind the scenes.  I am sure the project will go on after it is performed in the ‘homes’ of the three organizations that committed early on to support the development time it needed, which include the Center, The Andy Warhol Museum and BAM.

As with anything connected to Warhol – everyone seems to have a story about “Andy” and along the way of this, I have heard many…..real and imagined….people are compelled to tell you about “the time when…..”

I swear, Andy Warhol has had dinner and drinks with people that were not even born during the Factory years – and that will probably be the case for decades to come.

Indeed, part of the impetus behind this work is to celebrate the 20-year history of The Andy Warhol Museum, which has done much to ensure that Andy’s memory and influence continues to loom large.

My story about Andy is tied to this moment in time, to  the preservation and presentation of these incredible lost films, the talented and varied music artists who are helping bring them to life for us.

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Victoria Tennant: Irina Baronova and the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo–Saturday Oct. 18, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the performance program notes.

“It seems extraordinary now, when every town has a ballet school and every little girl has a tutu in her dress-up drawer, that there was a time when ballet was largely unknown in America.”

Early in her beautiful book, Victoria Tennant makes this observation in a section that recounts her mother’s teenage journey as a Russian artist touring in America.

Then, toward the end of the book, packaged alongside a picture of an aged-but-still-stunning Baronova posing with a tutu-and-tiara-clad young girl, comes these words from Baronova herself.

“It gives me, personally, a lot of satisfaction to feel that my work helped introduce audiences to ballet and made them like it. So, there is a piece of me in all the companies that have since sprung up. The work was not in vain. I achieved something, not just for myself, but for the Art that I love and for the future generations of youngsters coming after me.”

Victoria’s book is not only a loving testament to the life of an artist, a daughter’s tribute to the mother who inspired her, but an incredibly important record of an essential evolution in the art of performance, documenting a significant time period in the history of dance in this country and abroad.

She’s an exceptional storyteller.  And tonight, we have the extreme pleasure of welcoming her to the stage to share her stories with us.

Victoria will immerse us in her mother’s journey and her own journey of discovery as she embarked upon the creation of this book, mining a treasure trove of images, stories and memories carefully preserved and left behind by her famous mother.

Many programs on our season this year explore this notion of the art of archive, the potency and beauty there is to be found in the words and images from the past.

The story behind the story, Victoria’s tale, is as powerful as  the story of her mother’s incredible life and work.

We’re very proud to have her with us, to share personal and vivid memories of a woman beloved by the public, and to remind us of the great spirit, tenacity, generosity and lasting influence of an artist who came before.

Welcome, and thank you for being here with us.

Thoughts from the staff of CAP UCLA