Saturday, January 21, 2017, @ musicgallery.org
Sherri Hay (New York)
Bruno Ribeiro (Montreal)
Jeremy Bailey (Toronto)
Jenn Norton/Steph Yates (Guelph)
Robin Kobrynski (Paris)
Tasman Richardson (Toronto)
Katie Switzer/Paul Moleiro (Toronto)
"Long live the new flesh," is a quote from David Cronenberg's 1983 film Videodrome which is based on the medium of video and on Marshall McLuhan's famous work, The Medium is the Message. It is also the title of Tasman's Richardson's curated performance, a performance which pursues to alter the ways in which we experience the world by pushing forward sociological, aesthetic, and philosophical concepts in art.
The New Flesh is a one night live performance, not to be missed, by curator/artist Tasman Richardson who has “brought together seven performances that touch on the possibilities of souls without bodies. Mobiles of circuit bent signals cast on textile, radio waves echoing the birth of the universe, decaying surveillance reflections, melting matter, confronting all senses, the colour of sound, electron radiation rhythms, composition improvised by neural networks. This evening, artists gather to surrender their bodies, project their signals, and serve you The New Flesh.”
TUSSLE: In your curatorial statement you ask, “What does this soul without a body mean for performance?” Can you expand on your thoughts about what ‘this” means for performance?
TASMAN RICHARDSON: I don't think I'm alone in seeing performance as a medium in which the body itself is the format. I think some people might say, without the body there is no performance, but I would challenge that by saying the vacuum left by the absence of the body demands attention as much as the conventional presence of the body. I initially coined the phrase "video is a soul without a body" when I was debating in Ottawa with Artengine. The subject was "Is Video Dead?" and I was making a passionate, biased, and semi-mystical argument about the nature of video as a transport medium. A medium that isn't married to its format, unlike painting paint or filming film. Video can be broadcast, tape, or youtube. I wondered about the nature of signal moving away from the restrictions of a format, and I started to daydream about that utopian concept of digital persona free of flesh and all the bias of identity. I was curious about that shift because I once had an argument with a friend about abstract expressionism and masculinity. My thought was that if you eliminate representation then the gesture can be sharp, soft, masculine, feminine without needed to be linked to the artist's own gender, etc. My friend challenged this and said it would be clear just from looking, which work was by a man or a woman. I then collected many women abstract expressionist works and asked, which is male? after I revealed that none were, and we were both pretty satisfied.
TUSSLE: What do you hope the audience will take home from this performance?
TASMAN RICHARDSON: I hope that with the rise of "zombie formalism" they will feel they've experienced something of substance. That expression and feeling can be conveyed without the literal or the focus on the persona. It would be nice if they could be provoked and engaged by signal and noise with purpose, crafted by performers that are assisting the machines. I have no idea what they'll think but I've tried hard to give them something a step apart from the usual random casual abstraction that is sometimes produced as a kind of wallpaper or background ambiance. There is no wallpaper here. The signal is the star.
TUSSLE: Is The New Flesh an ongoing video performance based exhibition?
TASMAN RICHARDSON: This is the second instance of The New Flesh. The first took place years ago at the Review Cinema. A completely different lineup but along the same theme of abstract expressionist media performance. The first edition was more aggressive but also incredibly difficult to manage! Luckily, audiences can sense when risks are being taken and they are pretty supportive when they know failure is a real possibility. I would only launch this event again if I found an equally inspired group of artists to showcase. It's taken a long time for this second iteration to come to fruition for the same reason.
TUSSLE: In your opinion, how has video art changed over the last decade?
TASMAN RICHARDSON: I'm so self-involved and deeply interested in my personal discoveries, I'm not the best person to ask. My interests lead me to artists, I don't actually scan the latest art news or attend many openings so you'll have to take my perspective with a grain of salt. I've seen a shift though, from the hands-on immediacy of tactile analog and then an emergence of experimental editing which eventually, sadly, gave way to very conventional sort of digital short films. I think that's really a shame. I'm thrilled by experiments and misused tech and especially scavenged content and materials so when I see that it's always going to be my preference. Lately, I'm seeing a return to analog tactile experiments but also a mixing with digital algorithms and software patches like MAX MSP, Pure Data, and Max for Ableton Live. I think this hybrid work is interesting, and I really like the direction that pure digital works are going though it still feels like many emerging artists are exhibiting the alphabet instead of waiting to actually turn it into poetry before sharing it.
TUSSLE: Have you worked previously with any of the artists?
TASMAN RICHARDSON: I have. Jeremy was integral to developing my Blind Spot piece in the Necropolis installation. He's also worked on prototypes with me before, software based but related to my interest in live JAWA performance. I've shown with Jenn recently in Athens which was amazing, as part of a group show co-curated by Scott Mcgovern of Guelph's Ed Video. Robyn and Bruno are from my V-Atak family which is the media arts label in Paris. I've been a huge fan of Sherri's work but I've never collaborated with her, and Katie and Paul are totally new to me but I'm familiar with their previous involvement in the media collective Analog Preservation Network (APN).
TUSSLE: What is coming up next for you in 2017?
TASMAN RICHARDSON: I've got a performance on Jan 16 as part of Brett Despotivich's amazing Channel festival. On the same day, in Ottawa, I'm part of an exhibition at PDA Projects where I'll be showing lenticular prints from a series I did called Lethe Baptism. I'll be installing a piece called Janus for Particle in Wave in Calgary which opens Feb 2, and then sometime in April I'm working on a very unusual installation for Julie René de Cotret's curated group show in Waterloo which finds odd interpretations of glass and ceramic media which in my case will be related to "exploding" the view of cathode ray tubes. After that, I hope to take some time to myself and just research and develop my next installation which will consist of four wabi-sabi / Basho-inspired works on the beauty of imperfection and decay.