Inspired by Tarek Atoui’s current exhibition The Ground: From the Land to the Sea at NTU CCA Singapore, this screening series features artist videos, documentaries, and filmic essays that examine how the image and the sonic create immersive ways for multiple sensorial elements to come together and form a singular space. Maybe I hadn’t been paying attention is further guided by the Centre’s overarching research topic CLIMATES. HABITATS. ENVIRONMENTS. by focusing on artistic interpretations that reflect our present-day ecology, bringing attention to global issues we tend to overlook, and by observing how we navigate different environments, particularly through aural perception.
The screening series features works by Robert Ashley (United States), Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Jordan/Lebanon), Melanie Bonajo (Netherlands/United States), Camille Henrot (France/United States), Alison O’Daniel (United States), Uriel Orlow (Switzerland/United Kingdom), Simon Ripoll-Hurier (France), Ben Russell (United States), and Nico Vascellari (Italy).
Each work will be shown for a week and looped during the exhibition’s opening hours.
A selection of works will be presented in a one-night-only screening on Friday, 8 June 2018.
Tuesday, 1 May – Sunday, 6 May
Robert Ashley, 1976, 48 min
Title Withdrawn, a music theatre on videotape, belongs to a series of videos, Music with Roots in the Aether, directed by Robert Ashley, in which he establishes a panorama of the New York experimental scene of the early 1970s through interviews and concerts by composers Pauline Oliveros, Philip Glass, and Alvin Lucier. Based on his piece Automatic Writing, Ashley uses his own involuntary speech that results from his mild form of Tourette’s syndrome as one of the voices in the music. The second voice is a French translation of his ideas. Intrigued by his involuntary speech and the idea of an unconsciously-created music composition, Ashley’s interest in using voice and words went beyond their explicit denotation as he believed their rhythm and inflection could convey meaning even if one does not understand the actual phonemes.
Robert Ashley (United States, 1930–2014), one of the leading American composers of the post-Cage generation, is particularly known for his work in new forms of opera. In the 1960s, during his tenure as its director, the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor presented most of the decade’s pioneers of the performing arts. With the legendary ONCE Group, he developed his first large-scale operas. Along with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, he formed the Sonic Arts Union, a group that turned conceptualism toward electronics. Throughout the 1970s, he directed the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College, and produced his first opera for television, the 14-hour Music with Roots in the Aether, based on the work and ideas of seven influential American composers. In the early 1980s the Kitchen commissioned Ashley’s Perfect Lives, the opera for television that is widely considered the precursor of “music-television.” Stage versions of Perfect Lives, as well as his following operas, Atalanta (Acts of God), Improvement (Don Leaves Linda), Foreign Experiences, eL/Aficionado and Now Eleanor’s Idea toured throughout the US and Canada, Europe and Asia during the 1980s and 1990s. A new group of operas was begun in 1999 when Kanagawa Arts Foundation (Japan) commissioned Dust, which was quickly followed by Celestial Excursions and The Old Man Lives in Concrete. He wrote and recorded his performance-novel, Quicksand (released in novel form by Burning Books). His final opera, Crash, was completed in December 2013 and premiered at the 2014 Whitney Biennial Exhibition.
Tuesday, 8 May – Sunday, 13 May
Rubber Coated Steel
Lawrence Abu Hamdan, 2016, 21 min
In May 2014, Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank (Palestine) shot and killed two teenagers, Nadeem Nawara and Mohamad Abu Daher. The human rights organisation Defence for Children International contacted Forensic Architecture, a Goldsmiths College-based agency that undertakes advanced architectural and media research, and worked with Lawrence Abu Hamdan to investigate the incident. The case hinged upon an audio-ballistic analysis of the recorded gunshots to determine whether the soldiers had used rubber bullets, as they asserted, or broken the law by firing live ammunition at the two unarmed teenagers. A little over a year after Abu Hamdan completed his report, he returns to the case of Abu Daher and Nawara in his video Rubber Coated Steel, which acts as a tribunal for the sounds extracted from the serial killings. It does not preside over the voices of the victims but rather seeks to amplify their silence, fundamentally questioning the ways in which rights are being heard today.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Jordan/Lebanon) is an artist and audio investigator currently a guest of German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Berlin. His interest with sound and its intersection with politics originate from his background as a touring musician and facilitator of DIY music. The artist’s audio investigations have been used as evidence at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in the United Kingdom, and as advocacy for organisations such as Amnesty International and Defence for Children International. They are conducted as part of his research for Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths College London where he received his PhD in 2017. He was the recipient of the Abraaj group art prize (2018); the short film award at the Rotterdam International Film festival (2017) with Rubber Coated Steel; and Nam June Paik Award (2016) with his exhibition Earshot at Portikus Frankfurt. Solo exhibitions include Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Kunsthalle St Gallen (2015); The Showroom, London (2012); and Casco, Utrecht (2012). He is the author of [inaudible]: A Politics of Listening in 4 Acts (2016) and a forthcoming ebook produced as part of his 2015–17 fellowship at the Vera List Centre for Art and Politics at the New School in New York. His works are part of collections at MoMA, New York; Guggenheim, New York; Van AbbeMuseum, Eindhoven; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Tate Modern, London.
Tuesday, 15 May – Sunday, 20 May
Remnants of the Future
Uriel Orlow, 2010/2012, 17 min 18 sec
Remnants of the Future combines elements of documentary, sci-fi, and electroacoustics. It portrays the precarious existence in a post-Soviet ghost town, an inverted ruin of the modern that is still waiting to fulfil its utopian ambition of communal living. It is set in Northern Armenia in a vast, unfinished housing project called Mush, named after the once flourishing Armenian town in Eastern Turkey. It was built on the orders of then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to house the people displaced by the 1988 Armenian earthquake (also known as Spitak earthquake). The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 abruptly halted the ambitious housing development and it has since remained in a ghostly state of incompletion and near desertion, inhabited only by migrating birds and isolated human scavengers who salvage scrap metal out of the hollow shells of concrete and live in parts of the big, skeletal housing blocks. As the day turns into night, the soundscape, composed by Mikhail Karikis, moves from the sounds of animals and everyday activities of the few inhabitants to modulations of radio waves emitted by pulsars, or dying stars, which still reach us after the star has died. Out of this electroacoustic cloud, a woman’s voice announces: “I am an emissary from the future…” The time travelling character from Vladimir Mayakovsky’s play The Bathhouse (1930) invites those left behind by failed state capitalism and the neglect of free markets to join her in the commune of the future.
Uriel Orlow (Switzerland/United Kingdom) is concerned with spatial manifestations of memory, blind spots of representation and forms of haunting. His practice is research-based, process-oriented, and multi-disciplinary including film, photography, drawing, and sound. He is known for single-screen film works, lecture performances, and modular, multi-media installations that focus on specific locations and micro-histories, bringing different image-regimes and narrative modes into correspondence. In 2017 he was awarded the Sharjah Biennial prize. His work is presented widely in museums, film festivals, and international survey shows including the 2nd Yinchuan Biennial (2018); Sharjah Biennial 13 (2017); 2nd Aichi Triennale, Nagoya (2013); and 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthalle St Gallen (2018); The Showroom, London (2016); and Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2015).
Tuesday, 22 May – Sunday, 27 May 2018
PONCE DE LEÓN
Ben Russell (co-directed with Jim Drain), 2012, 26 min
“I could do wonders if I didn’t have a body. But the body grabs me, it slows me, it enslaves me.”
– Ponce de Léon
Ponce de León discovered the fountain of youth and drank of immortality in the waning moments of his life. In an instant, he became old forever—an 80-year-old Spaniard who would continue to walk the earth for centuries, watching as coral foundations gave way to mangrove swamps, as swamps were drained and buildings were erected, as buildings decayed and swamps returned. Ponce de León is an immortal for whom time poses the greatest dilemma—it is a constant, a given, and his personal battle lies in trying to either arrest time entirely or to make the hands on his clock move faster. For Ponce de León, time is a problem of body, and only by escaping his container can he escape time itself.
Ben Russell (United States) is a filmmaker, artist, and curator, who challenges conventions of documentary representation from within to produce intense, hypnotic, and, at times, hallucinating experiences. His curatorial work follows his filmmaking, which unfolds between experimental cinema and a form of speculative ethnography; he calls it “psychedelic ethnography.” His films and installations are in direct contact with the history of the documentary, providing a time-based inquiry into trance phenomena and evoking the research of other filmmakers including Jean Rouch, Maya Deren, and Michael Snow. Russell received a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a FIPRESCI International Critics Prize (IFFR 2009) for his first feature film Let’s Go One Where He Goes. His second feature film, A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, and Hallucinations, co-directed with Ben Rivers, premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2013.
Courtesy of Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, www.vdb.org
Tuesday, 29 May – Sunday, 3 June 2018
The Tuba Thieves Scene 55: The Plants Are Protected
Alison O’Daniel, 2013, 21 min
Over the past few years, tubas have been stolen from high schools all over the Los Angeles area to be sold on the black market for a high price. The Tuba Thieves respond to these thefts as a springboard for exploring the material and aural space of cinema through collaborations with hearing, deaf, and hard-of-hearing artists and musicians. Interpreting poems, artworks, news stories, and other references about the tuba thefts, deaf artist Christine Sun Kim created a musical score for The Tuba Thieves Scene 55. Alison O’Daniel’s approach reversed the usual filmmaking process by starting with the music, which then informed the other cinematographic decisions (film plot, settings, images, and atmosphere). A process of deep listening orchestrates the narrative, which involves different historical or anecdotal events that have incorporated deaf history, silence, or altered experiences of listening. Six short film segments of The Tuba Thieves, made between 2013 and 2015, are completed, and each iteration influences the next.
Alison O’Daniel’s (United States) work weaves narratives of aural sensitivity and experience between the mediums of film, object making, and performance. Through her collaborations with deaf and hearing composers and artists, her work invites sensitivity to the loss and abundance of sound and its impact on social situations. She has been featured in solo exhibitions at Samuel Freeman Gallery, Los Angeles (2013), and the Centre d’Art Contemporain Passerelle, Brest (2015). O’Daniel’s feature-length film Night Sky premiered at the Anthology Film Archive in conjunction with Performa 11 as part of the Walking Forward-Running Past show at Art in General, and has been presented with live musical or Sign Language accompaniment at venues including The Aspen Museum of Art; MOCAD (Detroit); NYU; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Museum of Jurassic Technology; and High Desert Test Sites.
Tuesday, 5 June – Sunday, 10 June 2018
Nico Vascellari, 2004, 2 min 57 sec
The camera follows a drum set while it rolls down a steep hill in the woods. During the drum’s seemingly endless journey, it gets hit by trees, rocks, and bushes, creating a live performance that the artist registers closely. The linear simplicity of the film is disturbed by the inversion of the movement between player and instrument: The drum set comes to the players by chance, instead of the players intending to hit the drums. From time to time, the viewer can hear the invisible composer become part of the concert through his breathing, making himself present in the form of sound. Avoiding a direct relationship between sound and image, Nico Vascellari makes the importance of the former over the latter evident and maintains the anticipation of the unpredictable next moment of this sonic experiment.
Nico Vascellari (Italy) is a multifaceted artist who communicates mainly through performance, video, and installations. His work is presented widely in museums, and international survey shows including Manifesta7 Rovereto (2008), 15th Quadriennale di Roma (2008), and 52nd Venice Biennale (2007). He has had solo exhibitions at MAXXI, Museo delle Arti del XXI secolo, Rome (2018); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2016); and Villa Medici, Rome (2016); and has been part of group shows at Museion, Bolzano (2016); Museo Del Novecento, Milan (2016); National Art Gallery, Tirana (2015); and Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2014).
Tuesday, 12 June – Sunday, 17 June 2018
Losing the Birds
Simon Ripoll-Hurier, 2015, 17 min
In Losing the Birds, Kenneth Ward (president of the North Alabama Birdwatching Society) and his wife Rufina are shown in their garden in Huntsville, Alabama, constantly switching between attempts to communicate with the birds around them, chatting to each other, and voicing their ecological concerns about the future of local species. Birdwatchers or “birders” spend their free-time trying to observe birds. They position themselves in a strategic place, in the forest or at the edge of a forest, and wait. They are equipped with binoculars and a list of bird species found in the area. Each time they see (or hear) a particular species, they tick it off the list. To improve their results, they practice “pishing,” which involves imitating certain bird calls (mainly those of predators such as the Scops owl in the American East) to trigger reactions among smaller birds, who will give their alarm call and start to move, making them easier to spot.
Simon Ripoll-Hurier (France) is a visual artist and musician. Covering several intersecting fields, his work initially focused on venues for the production of dominant images, such as Hollywood (Translations, 2008–11) and Broadway (The Broadway Melody, 2010–13), using translation and transposition mechanisms as procedures for borrowing and subversion. In 2013 he made the experimental film Dreamland, which documents the process of fabricating a song. He then became more involved with movies and has been working on his Diana project since 2014, of which Losing the Bird is part of and consists of videos performance and a radio piece. His work has been shown in numerous institutions including Le Magasin, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, Palais de Tokyo, Fondation des Galeries Lafayette; and has been acquired by public art collections, among them the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Frac Haute-Normandie, Beaux-arts de Paris, and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales. He also plays with les Agamemnonz, an instrumental surf music band, and is the co-founder of the online artists’ radio station *DUUU.
Tuesday, 19 June – Sunday, 24 June 2018
Camille Henrot, 2013, 13 min
With Grosse Fatigue, Camille Henrot set herself the challenge of telling the story of the universe’s creation. The backbone of Grosse Fatigue is a long poem delivered in the style of spoken word, the form of expression used to great effect in the 1970s by the New York musicians, The Last Poets. It mixes scientific history with creation stories belonging to religious (Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, etc.), hermetic (Kabbalah, Freemasonry, etc.), and oral (Dogon, Inuit, Navajo, etc.) traditions in a joyous syncretism. In the visual background of this impassioned oration, Henrot performs what she calls an “intuitive unfolding of knowledge” through a series of shots unveiling the treasures hidden away in the prestigious collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.—shots that have been reworked with images found on the Internet and scenes filmed in locations as diverse as a pet store and a domestic interior that appear like pop-ups at the screen’s surface.
Camille Henrot’s (France/United States) diverse practice combines film, drawing, and sculpture. Taking inspiration from subjects as varied as literature, mythology, cinema, anthropology, evolutionary biology, religion, and the banality of everyday life, Henrot’s work acutely reconsiders the typologies of objects and established systems of knowledge. A 2013 artistic fellowship at the Smithsonian resulted in her film Grosse Fatigue, for which she was awarded the Silver Lion at the 55th Venice Biennale awarding the “most promising young artist.” Henrot is the recipient of the 2014 Nam Jun Paik Award and the Edvard Munch Art Award 2015. She has had solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin; New Orleans Museum of Art; and Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris. Her work has been included in group shows at MoMA, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and SculptureCenter, New York; as well as the 2015 Lyon Biennial, and the 2016 Berlin Biennial.
Image credit: Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue, 2013, film still. Courtesy the artist.