For the past month or so, Michele and I have been working on video and set design for Marcie Begleiter’s play Meditations: Eva Hesse. The piece, a fictionalized account of Eva Hesse’s life and last days, combines theater with elements of sculpture and video installation, and touches on several key moments in Hesse’s life and career. As the video and set design team, we have been working closely with Marcie and director David Watkins to bring the piece to life. Very early on, Marcie had created story-boards visualizing the feel of the performance, combining the essence of Hesse’s work with the reality of her brain cancer until her work and life become merged in the finale.
production design sketch, by Marcie Begleiter
Armed with her early sketches, and following the evolution of the play through the rehearsal and workshopping progress, the set has emerged as a few key elements that loosely define the required settings. One is an installation/studio wall for the actors to work with as the play unfolds. The idea for the installation/studio wall is to create a work in progress, which the actors will build upon, that has the feel and materiality of Hesse’s work, without trying to re-create any of her work in particular. This element references an underlying order layered with organic complexity and rooted in process and materiality. The other major set piece is a rolling, rear-projection video rig – built with an industrial aesthetic so that when it is not carrying video, it will serve as a portion of a wall or part of a space. The steel-angle construction precisely frames the area required for a short-throw projector to create a seven by five foot image, in a compact geometric form.
sketch of rolling rear-projection rig and set wall, by Jeremy J. Quinn
early sketch of the “art wall,” by Jeremy J. Quinn
The video design consists of two main conceptual threads – one channel that fills in set elements and another channel that represents abstractions of Eva’s memories and psychological states, both of which follow the emotional arc of the play. Michele has been shooting and editing at a furious pace, attending most rehearsals and working in the space while watching the rehearsals progress. Rise Industries member Sarah Rushford was also able to shoot some video for us while traveling in Germany, which will be used in a German train station scene in the play.
still from video projection, by Michele Jaquis
Meditations: Eva Hesse is written by Marcie Begleiter, and directed by David Watkins
Michael Vanderbilt : Producer
Michele Jaquis : Video Designer
Jeremy Quinn : Set Designer
Alice Tavener : Costume Designer
R. Christopher Stokes : Lighting Designer
Casey McGann: Stage Manager
Marisa Blankier: Assistant Stage Manager
Rosalyn Myles: Prop Master
Young Eva-Alexandra Ozeri
Adult Eva-Bianca Gisselle
Dying Eva- Heather Tyler
Tom-Robert Manning Jr.
Mutti/Dr. P/German Curator- Shanti Reinhardt
William/Sol/German Transit Officer-Barry Saltzman
Art Worker 1 (Daniel)-Tuddy Monteanu
Art Worker 2 (Jane)-Kimberly Patterson
The Everyday Exchange is a celebration of our daily routines—such as commuting to work, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, making breakfast…
Participants in the Exchange talk to each other about their routines. One person then makes a small present for their friend about these routines, or to be used during these routines. These gifts can be anything from a small artwork, to a poem, to a sound recording.
Visitors to the Exchange’s show at Meme will be able to see examples of past presents. They are also welcome to sit down and talk to Tim Devin about their own routines—and get a small present out of it.
Gallery hours: June 27- July 3rd 1pm to 8pm.
Closing : Saturday July 3rd, 6pm to 10pm
Since 2007, MEWS-PARI has been collecting people’s stories of their meaningful encounters with strangers. We’ve then been making maps and charts about them; writing dramatizations; creating free books; and reenacting the stories.
At the festival, we’ll have a table with free books and dramatizations. we’ll be tape-recording people’s stories, and reenacting others with anyone who wants to join us.
Above are a couple of sound clips from the audio I am working on for Walks Through Walls… its mostly things I have recorded on the guitar, with some other random recordings thrown in for good measure (eg, a toy finger piano, an ice skating record played on a Fisher Price record player) as well as that MIDI synthy part up there. Some sound was recorded specifically for the show, and I am also using parts of various other compositions of mine. In addition to all that, there are some sound effects thrown in. Oh yeah, and The Drifters. And maybe a Buddha Machine loop or two.
Michele and I have been working on set and media design for Caleb Hammond’s experimental theater project Walks Through Walls over the past months, and production is ramping up for the upcoming show:
Walks Through Walls Highways Performance Space
at 18th Street Arts Center
1651 18th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404 8:30 pm, June 4th and 5th
for tickets, call 310-315-1459
or purchase online at www.highwaysperformance.org
tickets are $20/$15
Walks Through Walls is written and directed by Caleb Hammond
it features performances by Susan Josephs, Amber Skalski, Tim Ottman, Ceasar F. Barajas and Samantha Gregg
Set, video and sound design by Rise Industries (Jeremy J. Quinn and Michele Jaquis)
Costume Design by Ben Rosenberg
Lighting Design by Christopher Stokes
Director’s Assistants: Nathalie Sanchez, Andrea Dominguez
Production Assistants: Hanna Kovenock, Jonathan Stofenmacher, Alex Becerra
Walks Through Walls is a transcendent installation/performance piece investigating the human condition as an expressionistic landscape of continually disappearing experiences of agony and ecstasy.
It is a portrait in motion of the ephemerality of memory and desire created by boldly physical actors enmeshed in a canvas of beautiful theatrical imagery and sound.
Performers careen and slide through space, accompanied by a mesmerizing mantra-like fugue of poetic text that is spoken, projected, and heard echoing in the sound design. Walks Through Walls is part sound and video installation piece, part performance art, part poetry made flesh.
We have developed a minimal set to shape the space and provide depth for movements, which will also provide surfaces for the video projections.
Onto these structures, we will be layering four channels of video and a soundscape that intertwines with the performers’ actions and dialogue.
The central text, a long, multi-voice poem of fragmented narratives, beauty and chaos, is presented throughout the work as projected text, spoken dialogue, audio and video interpretations, and recorded monologues in both video or on the soundtrack.
The result is that the text shifts through the piece, echoing in the many media presented to the audience, fractured and recombined over and over again for the duration of the performance.
Here are some images from the early rehearsals and production:
Tim Ottman, rehearsing in test makeup
Ben Rosenberg applying test makeup to Amber Skalski
Ben Rosenberg applying test makeup to Tim Ottman
Susan Josephs and Amber Skalski at first rehearsal
Caleb Hammond and Tim Ottman confer while Michele Jaquis and Hannah Kovenock look on
For a long time now, I have had a habit, or method, of laying out my audio/installation/performance projects by drawing simple, yet detailed, diagrams of all the parts.
These diagrams would help me to organize the signal flow, parts list and layout for the projects. I would actually use them to figure out how many cables to buy, with what connections, and so on. Often I would start with a looser version, that helps to lay out the conceptual parts of the work, and how the parts are related, which I refine a few times until I am ready to draw every little cord, element, and plug.
For the performances of Public/Private and Local Music I scanned and cleaned up my diagrams and included them in booklets I made for each show. Here is one from Public/Private:
This little diagramming habit got me curious about other sound diagrams, and I dug up some interesting ones out there, including this gem from Brian Eno, showing how his analogue infinite tape loop system for Discreet Music worked.
There are also tons of people around the internet either posting their sound rigs, or diagramming bands set ups, so you can finally find out what kind of hardware they are using, in what configuration, to get that specific sound.
Here is a simple diagram of a guitar rig (found here):
Here is an example of a pedal-board layout, used as a guide for Ronnie Cramer here to build a flight-case mounted effects board.
While these diagrams are interesting, they are merely graphic representations of the arrangement and connections of the tools of some musicians. They borrow the logic of the circuit diagram, long used to draw out and conceptually test circuits prior to actual constructing them, but keep none of the symbols. It is actually in the symbols that the circuit diagram really gets useful – the ability of the drawing to represent the functions of physical objects in such a precise way that you can actually trouble shoot your circuit from the drawing. I am interested in these properties of the diagram, and the possibilities of using the diagram to structure sound in a more direct way.
The Voice of Saturn synthesizer (used in video below) schematic
Several months ago I got into a conversation with Juan Azulay of Matter Management about Moog synthesizer wiring. I think he had just posted looking for someone who knew how to wire a Moog (I do not), and I responded with some video of a (much simpler) kit synthesizer that I had built.
The legendary Moog
My synth and delay setup
This short exchange led to my joining his Vivarium team as sound designer. For this project, I was vaguely tasked with creating a hybrid bio-electronic synthesizer which would take sensor input from a collection of living organisms and their support systems (light, heat, water), merge them with a set of software based systems, and output sound which was responsive to changes in both the living organisms, the support systems, and the software systems.
The sound system was to work in parallel with a video system of even greater complexity, created by a media team headed up by Doug Wiganowske. It will be taking input from cameras, feeding that to a series of virtual organisms (built as an evolving software construct by Nicholas Pisca), and merging all of that with video shot during the whole process of making the Vivarium. This is all finally output to a set of monitors in the media field of the final installation.
I began the sound design process by diagramming inputs, processes, and relationships that could be set up within this system, based on an assumed list of organisms and support systems. At the same time I began to search for sensors that could take the data we wanted, and translate it to MIDI so I could use it to work with the audio and data signals within the software. At this point I was worried I would have to build these sensors and processors by hand, and was looking to side-step that long process. I also started research into what software would be best for the set up.
The media and sound teams then collaboratively worked out a diagram of all the media for the installation, as a framework from which to develop our systems.
I found a couple of patch-based software packages that would be appropriate for the project, and began working with one of them, Audio Mulch, to develop test patches.
From the Audio Mulch website:
AudioMulch is an interactive musician’s environment for PC and Mac. It is used for live electronic music performance, composition and sound design.
AudioMulch allows you to make music by patching together a range of sound producing and processing modules.
I also found a source for the sensors I needed, an ordered a few so that I could test my input devices with my software patches. The result of this first test (using some of my sounds and a short sample from the band Double).
In Audio Mulch, patches are created by objects dragging onto a “patcher” area and connecting them with patch cords. The objects themselves are chosen from a list of various types of audio handlers, generators, or processors. Once a patch has been assembled, in flow-chart diagram fashion where you can actually follow the path the signal takes through the patch cords, then adjustments can be made to each element in the editor panel beside the patcher. The power of this program for me was that each object was able to have midi input assigned to adjust any of its parameters, enabling sensors to be to control almost any element of the sound. Also, the complexity and fidelity of the available objects was quite impressive.
Here, the diagram has become the instrument and sound generator itself, and as I constructed patch diagrams, I was building the software synthesizer the would generate sound from my array of sensors.
After working within this system for many weeks, Juan and the team suggested I look into using MAX/MSP to build my patches. MAX/MSP is also a patch based, flow-chart like software tool, but in contrast to Audio Mulch’s small set of fixed audio objects, MAX/MSP is simply a visual programming environment of limitless application. From the MAX website:
An interactive graphical programming environment for music, audio, and media. Max is the graphical programming environment that provides user interface, timing, communications, and MIDI support. MSP adds on real-time audio synthesis and DSP (digital signal processing), and Jitter extends Max with video and matrix data processing.
While this would open up the sound system to many new possibilities, it would require that I learn a whole programming syntax – quite a bit complex than just using new software with a simple user interface. I set about going through tutorials, taking apart demonstration patches, and building simple sound elements to test what I could and couldn’t learn to do within the time frame of the project.
Unlike using Audio Mulch, configuring the sensors to work with MAX/MSP was a challenge at first since it required unraveling the syntax of the sensor manufacturer’s proprietary MAX objects. Once I had figured out all the tricks to get MAX and the sensors to talk, I made a simple light driven MIDI piano patch. You can see in this short video how casting shadows on the sensor will affect the simple MIDI piano sounds being generated randomly through the software.
With the sensors now talking to the software, I compiled an array of individual MAX patches, one for each type of sound or effect I wanted to include in the final sound system. Here I was limited a bit by my new knowledge of MAX, and will continue to refine and add to these patches throughout the duration of the installation. The complexity of the MAX system as compared to my previous Audio Mulch is system is more additive – building many simple elements into a large patch rather then building each element to create more complex sounds.
The modules in the above patch are color-coded by type, and each separated into boxes for clarity. Below them all of the individual audio channels are run into a mixer made up of individual faders and volume displays, then mixed down to the two speaker channels. In the final patch I added a filter at the end of each channel to guard against damaging low frequencies. I also had some help here from Michael Feldman in getting the patches to do what I wanted.
The patch at this point consisted of the following modules:
Stereo file player with sensor controlled pitch (on each stereo channel) and speed
Stereo file player with sensor controlled phasing and delay effects
Microphone input 1 with sensor controlled filter, phasing and delay effects
Microphone input 2 with sensor controlled filter, phasing and delay effects
A chorus of cricket sounds, each with sensor controlled speed (to replicate the acutual crickets that will be in the Vivarium)
A minor chord synthesizer, with the root note created by sensor data, with sensor controlled octave switch and filters
A frequency modulation synthesizer driver by sensor data
And two simple tone generators driven by sensor data
I ran a studio test, using the sensors I had available and the ambient conditions of my loft to control the patch. In the real installation, there is be an array of eight sensors, placed among the biology inside the Vivarium to control the patch.
Last week the final sensors arrived, I made the necessary tweaks to the patch, and spent several days installing the whole system while the Vivarium was being completed around me.
The Vivarium officially opened on March 26th with a small SCI-Arc reception, but over the next two weeks we will continue to refine the systems on site, getting everything optimized for a public reception and talk (between Matter Management’s Juan Azulay and SCI-Arc’s director Eric Owen Moss) on April 9th. During this time, I will also be working on getting the whole sound system to broadcast live over the web.
Matter Management’s Vivarium Installation is currently on display at SCI-Arc‘s Gallery.
This Tuesday, December 8, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education will be voting on whether or not to cut 50% of all elementary arts education, with 100% cut the following school year. We cannot let this happen!
Please sign this petition and forward it on to anyone you know. This is too important to ignore, so make some noise and spread the word!
This Saturday (12/5/09) I will be participating in an experimental performance event, organized by Jerri Allyn and Inez Bush. Debating Through the Artsis designed to explore creative solutions to cultural issues, and will be held from 9am – 5pm at the 24th Street Theater: 1117 West 24th St., LA 90007
Recommended times to attend: 9am for Artists Debates (will run approximately one hour) 3pm for Creative Proposal Performances (will run approximately one hour)
Audience members are also welcome to participate throughout the day in collaborative brainstorming workshops.
This daylong theatrical event based on the Model United Nations paradigm, includes 4 teams of artists acting as UN Delegates, while creatively debating the pros and cons of Freedom of Expression and Gentrification vs. Cultural Equity.
Participating artists include: Marjan Vayghan • Shana Nys Dambrot • Micol Hebron • Marissa Mercado • Michele Jaquis • Rosalyn Myles • Carol McDowell • Marcus Miceli • Juna Amano • Trinidad Ruiz • Beth Peterson • Jay McAdams • Portable City Projects with Jules Rochielle, Fred Portillo and Flora Kao
A woman walks down the aisle of the grocery store. She is followed by three other women. They are wearing matching wigs, and singing about the things the first woman is buying.
In a gray, padded cubicle, an office worker opens up a corporate-looking envelope. In it is a formal letter urging him to submerge an enclosed capsule in hot water, so see which “exciting safari animal” it will turn into.
During evening rush-hour, a woman stares down the subway tracks, listening to her headphones. A man approaches her. He hands her a handmade pop-up book. The book is about a woman wearing headphones, and staring down the subway tracks during evening rush-hour.
Welcome to the nutty world of artistic interventions into daily routines.
–Felicity Fenton’s backup singers–
For “Backup” (2008-ongoing), Felicity Fenton hires anonymous women she finds on Craigslist. For the first performance, three of these women accompanied her while she shopped for groceries. The women wore matching wigs, and sang about Fenton’s purchases. “Strange men whistled,” Fenton tells me over email, “some people ducked out of the way (due to the cameras) and lots of people continued to go about their daily task like nothing ever happened.” And a security guard told them they had to leave.
(Image from Felicity Fenton's website)
A year later, she performed it again, this time writing lyrics and dance moves for her backup singers, and providing them with matching outfits. When one of the singers cancelled at the last minute, Fenton had to take her place. Now short an audience, Fenton called a friend, and talked him into doing his own laundry while the singers serenaded him instead.
“Performance always cheers me up. It changes the tone of the day — completely. I dedicated a performance to something I usually take for granted…It felt as though I was praising the grocery and laundry gods for an hour.”
Fenton is currently planning a few more performances of the piece. These will most likely involving cleaning her house, and driving in traffic. With backup singers.
“It’s common to feel impatient or bored by things we do every day – brushing teeth, eating, making the bed, laundry, shopping, driving – and all the time it takes to do these things becomes convoluted and lacks presence because we think of the time as useless. But it’s not useless. We have to do these things, so why not find a new way to make them enjoyable? Art does this for me.”
–Chris Barr and the Bureau of Workplace Interruptions–
Groceries and laundry can be boring, but at least you only have to do them once a week. Work, on the other hand, happens a lot more often than that. Luckily, there is Chris Barr’s “Bureau of Workplace Interruptions” (2006-ongoing). Visitors to the Bureau’s website can sign up to have Barr or a volunteer from the Bureau interrupt their work-day.
“You know how receiving flowers at work can put a buzz on the rest of the day?” the website reads. “So do we. That’s why we create surprise, the kind that slices through the banal and opens up new places for your mind to wander. .. [W]e hope to invigorate some of the time you spend at work in order to create new experiences and possibilities outside the flow of capital.” All interruptions are guaranteed to not get you in trouble with your boss, too; the Bureau’s website stresses that their actions won’t be noticed by any of your coworkers.
Most of these interruptions take the form of emails. For instance, one volunteer who goes by the name Agent ChrisTwo invited an office worker to write a rap about his job. ChrisTwo starts him off:
“Yo, Yo, First City Loans is where Jason works,
His work is hard, have’n to give loans all day to jerks,
The office is nice but his cubicle is cramped,
the bathroom is clean but the floor is always damp.
Another volunteer, Agent J, advises an office worker to confess her sins to her coworkers. “Please, don’t feel judged by me; I’m an atheist,” Agent J goes on to explain to the recipient. “We would like to hear back from you, though, to see if this has had any impact on the dynamics of your work-relationships.” Documentation of these and other interruptions are available in a database on the Bureau’s website.
“I think what is important,” Barr tells me over email, “is not just stealing time, but a recognition that contemporary labor utilizes and exhausts our communicative and cognitive functions. So, the important thing to me is to insert non-saleable communications into those channels.”
I also like to interrupt people during their daily grind. My “Everyday Exchange” (2008-ongoing) involves paying visits to participants while they shop for groceries, commute to work, or do their laundry. During this visit, I give people a small work of art I’ve made, or a poem I’ve written, that is specifically about this particular routine of theirs. My visit, and the gift I bring along, are meant to make their routine a little more interesting.
(From my website)
I base these gifts on conversations I have with the participants beforehand. During these conversations, we tell each other about our daily routines. For me, these conversations are the crux of the project. One of the reasons I started the “Everyday Exchange” was to get people to discuss and examine daily routines—both theirs, and someone else’s. I’ve found that no one really talks about these things, because they don’t want to bore anyone. But this reluctance can only cut them off from a number of interesting observations.
Because these routines actually can be very interesting. For example, who else is on the train with you, and what are they doing? (Do they look bored? Bothered? Are they checking each other out?) Or when you go grocery shopping, do you always buy the same things? (Some people do. Others don’t.) Our routines can be very interesting—if only we would pay enough attention to them every once in a while.
I asked Fenton if laundry and shopping were different for her as a result of her project. “Yes!” she told me. “I value those mundane acts more than I did… It’s pretty amazing what happens to the brain when you become microscopically fascinated by things before you.”
“Backup” added a bit of magic to Fenton’s routines. The performances also made the grocery store and laundromat a little more interesting for everyone else around her.
Despite the different agendas behind them, each of these three pieces produces a similar result: a blip of surprise, or wonder, in an environment usually fuelled only by boredom.