Posts Tagged ‘Conceptual Art’

Phill Niblock

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Phill Niblock

After an early period studying economics (BA, Indiana University, 1956) Niblock came to New York in 1958. Initially he worked as a photographer and filmmaker. Much of this activity centered around photographing and filming jazz musicians. Thereafter he made a number of films in a series titled The Movement of People Working. Filmed in primarily rural environments in many countries (China, Brazil, Portugal, Lesotho, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, the Arctic, Mexico, Hungary, the Adirondacks, Peru), the films look at everyday work, frequently agrarian or marine labor. LargeThese films are remarkable for their realistic quality and absence of artifice, their use of long takes in high resolution and their supposedly artless juxtaposition of compelling images in vivid colors. These scenes of the movement of human manual labor are treated abstractly without explicit anthropological or sociological meaning. As in the music, a surface slowness is countered by an active, varied texture of rhythm and form of body motion within the frame; this is what Niblock himself considers the ultimate subject matter of his films.

Niblock’s first musical compositions date from 1968. Unusually, even among the avant-garde composers of his generation, he has no formal musical training. He cites the musical activities of New York in the 1960s as a stimulus (and occasional memorable performances, such as the premiere of Morton Feldman‘s Durations pieces). All his compositions are worked out intuitively rather than systematically. His early works were all done with tape, overdubbing unprocessed recordings of precisely tuned long tones played on traditional instruments in four, eight, or sixteen tracks. Since the late 1990s his music has been created with computer technology, notably with Pro Tools on a Macintosh computer. His later works are correspondingly more dense in texture, sometimes involving as many as forty tracks.

Niblock’s music is an exploration of sound textures created by multiple tones in very dense, often atonal tunings (generally microtonal in conception) performed in long durations. The layering of long tones only very slightly distinct in pitch creates a multitude of beats and generates complex overtone patterns and other fascinating psychoacoustic effects. The combination of apparently static surface textures and extremely active harmonic movement generates a highly original music that, while having things in common with early drone-based Minimalism, is utterly distinct in sound and technique. Niblock’s work continues to influence a generation of musicians, especially younger players from a variety of musical genres.

Niblock’s compositional process often begins with recordings of single, absolute tones played by a specific musician with the breathing and attack edited out. Such collaborations have been crucial to his composing life, and the range of musicians with whom he has worked include David Gibson, in the cello works of the 1970s); Petr Kotik, Susan Stenger, and Eberhard Blum, on Four Full Flutes; Rafael Toral, David First, Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore, Susan Stenger, and Robert Poss on Guitar Too, for Four (G2,44+1×2); Ulrich Krieger, Carol Robinson, Kaspar T. Toeplitz, and Reinhold Friedl, on Touch Food; and many others. Since 2003, Niblock has frequently toured and collaborated with electro-acoustic improviser Thomas Ankersmit. In the past decade he has produced several works for orchestra: Disseminate, Three Orchids (for three orchestras), Tow for Tom (for two orchestras), and 4 Chorch +1, the latter a commission for the Ostrava Music Days 2007 for chorus and orchestra with solo baritone (Thomas Buckner).

In performance, live musicians may play, wandering through the audience changing the sound texture through reinforcement of or interference with the existing tunings. Simultaneously, Niblock generally accompanies performances by presenting his films and videos (often those from the Movement of People Working series, or computer-driven, black-and-white abstract images floating through time). These performances fall into two types: (1) an installation of several hours’ duration, with the music pieces played consecutively, with a long loop of several hours of work before repetition, and with multiple images that are shown simultaneously; or (2) a performance, with several simultaneous works of music and film, usually lasting between one and three hours. In these performances Niblock generally projects three (or more) film images simultaneously, on large screens three to four meters wide. The films are 16mm and color. The music is produced from stereo or quad tapes, with four or more speakers in the corners of the space. His more recent video pieces are played individually or with several simultaneously, using large video monitors.

Since 1985, Niblock has been the director of the Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York where he has been an artist-member since 1968. In 1994, he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. He is the producer of music and Intermedia presentations at EI since 1973 (about 1,000 performances) and the curator of EI’s XI Records label. In 1993, he opened a house with window gallery at Sassekaai 45 in Ghent, Belgium, and, in 1997, the coordinating committee—Phill Niblock, Maria Blondeel, Zjuul Devens, Lieve D’hondt, and Ludo Engels—founded a Belgian organization, the Experimental Intermedia v.z.w., Ghent. He taught at the College of Staten Island, a CUNY school, from 1971 to 1998.

Phill Niblock’s music is available on the XI, Moikai, Mode Records, and Touch Music labels. A double-sided DVD of films and music, lasting nearly four hours, is available on the Extreme label.

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Félix González-Torres

Monday, November 15th, 2010

 

Gonzalez-Torres grew up in Puerto Rico before moving to New York City.
He had his first one-man exhibition of his early text pieces in 1988 at the Rastovsky Gallery (560 Broadway) in Soho.

His work was the focus of several major museum solo exhibitions in his lifetime and after his death.
Gonzalez-Torres was known for his quiet, minimal installations and sculptures. Using materials such as strings of lightbulbs, clocks, stacks of paper, or packaged hard candies, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work is sometimes considered a reflection of his experience with AIDS.

He was also considered within his time to be a process artist due to the nature of his ‘removable’ installations by which the process is a key feature to the installation. Many of Gonzalez-Torres’s installations invite the viewer to take a piece of the work with them: a series of works allow viewers to take packaged candies from a pile in the corner of an exhibition space, while another series consists of stacks of ultrathin sheets of clear plastic or unlimited edition prints, also free for the viewer to take.

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Some of these installations are replenished by the exhibitor as they diminish.
The most pervasive reading of Gonzalez-Torres’s work takes the processes his works undergo (lightbulbs expiring, piles of candies dispersing, etc.) as metaphor for the process of dying. Other readings include the issue of Public versus Private, Identity, and participation in contemporary art. One of his most recognizable works, Untitled (1991) was a billboard installed in twenty-four locations throughout New York City of a monochrome photograph of an unoccupied bed, made after the death of his lover, Ross, to AIDS.

In one interview, he said “When people ask me, ‘Who is your public?’ I say honestly, without skipping a beat, ‘Ross.’ The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work.”

Gonzalez-Torres died in 1996 due to AIDS related complications. In May 2002, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation was created.

In 2007, he was selected as the United States’ official representative at the Venice Biennale.

 

 

 

 

candyart Felix Gonzalez-Torres