Friday, July 30, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Dylan's art and music hasn't had a root in ages, not since he taught himself how to read and write music. His installations look like anti-formalist assemblage made by someone who has been dumpster diving, and to an extent they are. They have no unifying form and no desire to explain articulations between one another, aesthetically speaking. The same goes for rhythmic form his instruments produce, or lack-there-of. By uprooting music from the anatomical structures of plants Dylan redefines musical time and frees it from meter, creating a non-pulse time. Determinant systems become indeterminate, like a plant rhizome (subterranean root network ), new sounds bloom off the root-sound. Creating infinite possibilities, a new cartography of sounds is mapped. Dylan's practice, is eternal, it is part-art and part-music, better understood as art-cum-music, the relationship is fluid, moving in and out of itself seamlessly, it exists in as a bit pure time.
His art re-imagines how the first instruments where constructed. I feel comfortable braving the task of calling Musiquepovera an enforced Utopianism , this is because Dylan's practice is not a vain dream of perfection like that which a Utopia suggests, but instead an ecstatic reality. I feel like Dylan has a spiritual kinship with the individualist genius Richard Buckminster Fuller.Bucky, was an architect-cum-inventor-cum-engineer who preached a gospel of technological humanism. He claimed that the world is too dangerous for anything less than a Utopia, this is part-true, part-impossible, in any case Dylan's art-cum-music lands on the shifting sands that Utopian ideals imagine. For this current body of work time travel plays a significant role, warping back to the genesis of music making Dylan re-imagines how the first instruments were constructed. Actually, rewind-selector, I'd like to correct myself and call it an enforced 'topianism, I'm dropping 'U'. This way I can avoid the conflation of the two greek words,'Eutopia ' ( meaning good place ), and Outopia' ( meaning no place )and boil it down to simply 'topia', or place, actually 'topos' is greek for place if you want to get technical, either way if your still with me we can understand Musique Povera as just a place.
So if Musiquepovera is a place we can further observe that time is halted in this place for a molecular moment, a freeze. According to Dylan 90% of his materials are acquired outside the purview of the FREE market economy. He uses all manner of objects in his practice <<>> and assembles them into his instruments. I think Bucky would have loved to go dumpster diving with Dylan, he claimed that there were quite sufficient resources to serve all humanity, the only problem lay in their deployment. Dylan redeploys, retransmits, and enforces Bucky's prescient principle of sustainable design in his art.
One of Dylan's 'World's Firsts' is an instrument called the Drill Kick , which comes with a powerful lack formal finesse, and a replaceable brush roller on the end of a drill bit. I assume it oscillates in a deviant enough radius to hit the kick drum at prescribed intervals ( maybe he's bent the drill bit ? ). Basically this drill has an isness, it looks like a drill with a paint roller on the end of it. Its an obedient member of Dylan's installation; not imitating machine but aiming to transform machine according to human ideas, to analyze it instead of abstracting it from its isness. The installation is anti-formalist, or to confuse matters more you could say putting the 'for'( as in 'what for' a.k.a 'content')back into form. However to say that Dylan's practice doesn't have a formal element is wrong, which is also safe to say !? This is muddled but its okay because 'art is the ability to think contradiction', to untangle the knot is to miss the point(see Rancierre ), so its good that we are in a knot here. Dylan's art performs the contradiction, it is the eternal soul that Walt Whitman is talking about in 'Leaves of Grass' when he said "The trees have, rooted in the ground....the weeds of the sea have ....the animals." It seems as though there is this very eternal register which Walt speaks of in Dylan's practice, the infinite fluidity of forms, the movement between corporeal to audible, his art to his music and back again, mimicking nature's shifting and distorted image in it's transversal between the lines of art and music.
The Brush Guitar is a mess of colour, all the primaries and all the tertiaries are on show in an orgy of colour. Pink and Green are definitely seen, but there's no fairy queen in sight. If this aesthetes panic attack isn't enough Dylan also has bad tableaux manners, his installations reach across and grab the salt. They almost forces themselves on viewer. They also make the viewer want to force themselves on it, to somehow be integrated in the space. Actually if a viewer were to force themselves on Dylan's installation at the Heidi , by perhaps playing one of the worlds first musical instruments, I can see Dylan pulling up the Museum security guard with a deft, 'nah its fine', then wistfully picking up the brush guitar and having a jam with the visitor-meddler (he'd probably then , diffusely, pass the affronted Seca' the aerosol mbira and say have a pluck). Dylan makes a point of the scores being super easy to read and thinks it important that the scores can be read and reproduced by a seca'. <<>>
So it can be understood the installations are against formalism, but not entirely un-formal. There is an expressly negligent attitude to the presentation of his art-instruments, they are anti-hierarchally ordered in the space. When Dylan showed at Black & Blue Gallery last year his tool shelf and matt, with all his apparatus', were left on display throughout the exhibition. There's no room for dogmatic aesthetic judgement, but it doesn't mean there isn't a beauty, it just isn't handed down to us. There is a primacy to the existing physical forms of Dylan's art-instruments, a nascent coming-into form, in a sporadic turn art will sprout into sound. This anti-foramlist approach connects Dylan's practice with the conceptual roots of the art povera movement. Germano Celant described Art povera as <<>>, this is true of Musiquepovera, I'd like to challenge any one not familiar with Dylan's art to wrap their heads around the connexion between Dylan's diagrams of plant algorithms - the appearance of the 'first instruments ever made' - and the sounds they produce; at once immersed in all three . I can assure you there would be few people who make it through the space without crossing their arms and twaddling to their chest hair (or breast hair). For instance these words are no more than twaddling to a blank-hairless-page in response to Musiquepovera. However, it can be said that Dylan's practice makes sense in connexion to the art povera movement of the late 60's. Dylan is concerned with the primacy of the physical object, in the same way artist's like Eve Hesse from the Art Povera movement were focused on creating a non-work, that went beyond pre-conceptions that formalism ascribes. This connexion explains the title of the show, but Dylan's art-cum-music has a large element of non-physical elements, it comes into an auraltered state.
Dylan seeks to discover a suitable past , to create a position of which he is the logical heir , the next voice. His musical compositions draw from a philosophical history of mega-brains like John Cage , whose writing is far more interesting than the music he produced. Cage's music was hinged on chance procedures, and expanding to the max the conditions of executions and the possible relations they have with one another. Like Cage Dylan is primarily concerned with sounds, letting sounds be sounds , although he doesn't quiet demand the sound must predate the musical score. If Cage is the pioneer of letting sounds reign , Dylan takes it to the next place. His work attempts a new material intervention on sounds through the anatomical structure of plants. Not completely discarding the use of a score, Dylan's diagrams use the chance procedures in nature's anatomy. He creates his own voice "making use of sound complexes" derived from nature , its randomness, instead of " pure sounds ". This randomness of nature is fantastic in that it connects nature with the unrooted essence of Dylan’s art-cum-music. It reinforces the fact we are in the present, but a different present of a eucalyptus tree or any of the angiosperms Dylan's biological diagram's represent. It denies any harmony , the only way to reach a near harmony is to get on with the job is to embrace the different subjective existences in nature.
In the beginning there was Rhythm, according to Pythagorus, the Slits agreed in 1980, but it was Pieface not Ari Up who theorised a cosmos in harmony. Dylan defies the Pythagorean celestial harmony, weeding out whatever regulates a cosmic whole. Dylan’s music is not a circumscribed totality but an open whole, a black hole, which sucks in cosmic expenditure in through itself allowing it to harvest a new cosmic disorder, a de-heirachisation of musical form found in nature, its got no limit. If Dylan is is the shaman, Deleuze is the departed spirit that powers the cosmic machine capable of rendering sound. For those who don't know Deleuze, he's a very becoming philosopher and imagined a non-musician's music that had no metric proportion. Dylan's sounds are made in this very black hole of formlessness, before order and proportion. His instruments accord to the botanical diagrams , delicate and subtle eruptions are made, sound complexes, come out of the instruments seeking out to retrieve the spirit of sonority. Deleuze described this non-pulse (unrhythmic) sound as not macroscopic but the molecular domain of transverse becomings. There is no strict tuning system for the molecular sounds of Dylan's body of instruments. It takes into account variants of temperature , acoustics and tuning implements (stones,glass,seedpods,rocks). Base notes can be taken from some of the fixed notes (wind pieces,sistrum pipe,multi-player recorders) or the environment , even a tram outside window or the din of a fan.
Algorithms are molecular blueprints of nature's randomness. Nietzsche was in awe of nature, he said that nature is no model ( you can't pay mother nature $150 an hour to get her kit off , or can you ? ), it exaggerates , it distorts , leaves gaps. Dylan's music makes inaudible sounds << inaudible =" Time,">> . His instruments singularly don't make music, they hear the inaudible through their material interventions on the audible landscape. Music is abstracted from the black hole. In their unforeseeable connexions , sounds happens incidentally,and through their relations create musical compositions. Cage believed that nothing is predetermined, and although Dylan uses diagrams of algorithms to conduct his compositions there is similarly nothing predetermined about them. Nature is chance. You can't plan to sit under a Chestnut Oak and have a Song Thrush shit on you between its 2nd and 3rd strophe, its implausible. Nor can you control the chance hard-wired into the algorithms of a Fuschia. I guess thats why Dylan's art-cum-music excites me so much. He recapitulates profound ideas and methodologies from artists like Cage by channeling the random chance insitu in nature and creates musical scores in the disordered gaps that mother nature cleaves. Dylan creates anti-rhythms, like a lost pioneer creating a new aural landscape , a new sub-terranean-culture ... 'AlgoRhythms'.
Monday, July 19, 2010
the genesis of all musical
instruments begins with
a poverty of means and materials.
things that already exist within the environment
bones, holes in the earth, animal skins, rocks,
cooking, farming and hunting implements, sinew, seeds,
Dylan Martorell 28 June 2010
Together, these instruments and music give expressionto Martorell’s ‘Musique Povera’, a method and creative principle he applies to his work both as an artist and musician.2 Simple items drawn from the environment are recycled and resourcefully put to new use in ways that patch together a broad range of cultural influences, many of them garnered from Martorell’s travels abroad, particularly to Morocco and South-East Asia. A palm frond serves as the neck of a box-guitar giving a tropical twist to the blues and jug-band tradition of making guitars out of cigar-boxes. A cardboard postal tube becomes a readymade soundboard for a Dan Bau, a single-stringed instrument native to Vietnam. A snaredrum borrowed from the contemporary drum-kit of jazz and rock music is joined to the neck and head of a traditional ruan, the Chinese equivalent of a lute,to create a new hybrid version that can be played both as a percussion or stringed instrument. The hard, emptied-out skins of gourd fruits act as sound resonators for an assortment of other string, percussion and wind instruments that are newly invented by Martorell but which echo the uses made of gourds by African and Asian musicians.
Several sculptures are quite unlike any familiar instruments.
An old wooden crutch forms part of a makeshift
structure used to create tension for strings that are
played by plucking or made to vibrate by sliding a
solid object along them. A small electronic synthesizer
is activated when the beak of a toy plastic parrot hits
a succession of metal tabs. Tent-poles are joined to
make a new kind of eccentrically multi-pronged wind
instrument to be played by several players at once.
A so-called ‘brush-guitar’, made through the quirky
assembling of a straw brush, aerosol can, trumpet-mute
and a handsaw which serves as a bridge for sitar strings,
bears little resemblance to guitars as we know them.
The work is more a whimsical nod to the way instrument
types can be inventively re-interpreted and improvised
reflecting Martorell’s interest in ‘musical diaspora and the
ways in which musical ideas and instruments develop
within different environments’.
Martorell’s curious ensemble of sound-making objects
makes a striking sculptural environment in Heide’s
Project Gallery, resembling the types of display one
might see in an ethnographic museum. Indeed, in
developing this style of installation, Martorell was directly
inspired by his visit in 2009 to the Museum of Ethnology
in Hanoi, Vietnam where he saw exhibits of traditional
hand-made instruments, totemic objects and other
kinds of artefacts.3 Several of Martorell’s instruments
are housed in conventional museum display cases or
hang on walls. Others sit on a range of unconventional
supports: a wooden table, a speaker box and drums
of various sizes brought from the artist’s studio. The
display cases also contain some of the ordinary objects
Martorell uses to make sounds in his performances or
when recording music: a cup, spray can, broken glass,
golf balls, tapioca seeds, small electronic parts and a
cluster of painted rocks he collected from railway tracks,
items that can be variously banged, dropped, poured
and rolled to release their sonic potential. These simple
objects and actions are perhaps the purest expression
of Musique Povera’s ‘poverty of means and materials’
While Martorell’s concept has been shaped by his
experiences working collaboratively with artists and
musicians in Asia, Musique Povera, as the name implies,
also derives from two important touchstones from
mid-twentieth century Europe: the French school
of Musique Concrète and the Italian art movement
Arte Povera. The lyrical use that Arte Povera artists
made of humble or so-called ‘poor’ materials, including
those drawn from nature, is similar to Martorell’s use
of such things. With Musique Concrète, he shares an
interest in non-musical sounds, the ambient noises
of the ‘real’ world, and the aural possibilities that come
from using everyday objects as instruments.
In the 1950s the pioneers of Musique Concrète used
magnetic tape, at that time a new invention, to record
and manipulate everyday noises for the purpose of
creating music. Martorell now uses digital media to
similar ends. The sounds of nature and the urban world
like the songs of frogs at night, or noises from a building
site are digitally recorded, then looped and layered to
create a musical composition.4 In other ways, Martorell’s
instruments respond to nature and the environment.
In the absence of any fixed or pre-determined tuning
system, Martorell establishes their musical key from what
he terms ‘acoustic eco-systems’,5 that is, the auditory
conditions of the place where they are to be played; thus
he might align their pitch with the hum of a heater or
air-conditioner, or the clatter of a tram outside. Seedpods,
stones, glass pieces, or even an animal’s tooth are used
as elemental tuning devices; when manipulated they
can tighten or slacken strings, or when placed on a
drum-skin can vary its timbre.
Nature’s centrality to the ethos of Musique Povera
is beautifully expressed in sculptures using natural
materials, like the Sarang Box Harp (2009). The harp’s
strings are drawn taut between sections of a small
branch while its tuning pegs resemble white buds, as
if the harp’s music is nature’s blossom. In a different
way, Martorell’s pencil drawings on plywood also
picture nature as a source for music. The drawings’
intricate geometric designs derive from the growth
patterns of plants, but the drawings also serve as music
compositions for instrument or voice. Notations up the
sides specify the pitch of notes to be played or sung and
numbers along the bottom indicate the required duration
of the notes. When these music scores are performed,
their linear, criss-crossing structures translate as layered
glissandos of sound.
Some works invoke the very first instruments of ancient
times. The crude bamboo and nylon string bows that
feature in the drum-based works Monochord Tom Harp
(2010) and Pentatonic Bass Drum Harp (2010) recall
the earliest musical bows but also the hunter or archer’s
bow from which the musical type developed. Pentatonic
Bass Drum Harp (2010) is Martorell’s adaptation of a
Ugandan ground harp, a primitive stringed instrument
distinguished by its ingenious use of a hole in the
ground as a resonator for sounds made by playing
a string bow above ground.6 In his version, Martorell
replaces the hole in the ground with a tom drum; it
serves the same purpose of amplifying sound, but
provides greater portability. By invoking ‘the genesis
of all musical instruments’, as Martorell says, these
strange and evocative works go to the heart of ‘Musique
Povera’, connecting with instrument builders since the
earliest times who, like him, have used simple materials
borrowed from the environment to invent new ways of
Sue Cramer, Curator
Essay originally published by Heide Museum of Modern Art for the exhibition “Dylan Martorell, Musique Povera”, 31 July -14 November 2010
1 Unless otherwise stated, quotes from the artist are from
conversations with the author during June–July 2010.
2 See the artist’s blogspot for images of his works and other
source material informing his concept of Musique Povera
at: http://musiquepovera.blogspot.com/ 21 June 2010.
3 Martorell has posted his photographs of the
exhibits he saw at Hanoi’s Museum of Ethnology
Saturday 12 December 2009.
4 Martorell’s field recordings can be found
and http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=dylan martorell
5 Notes from the artist in an email 7 July 2010.
6 For further information on the Ugandan ground harp and the
origins of the musical bow see http://musiquepovera.blogspot.com/
21 June 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
In his book 'Nine Chains to the Moon' Buckminster Fuller explains the text as abstract and intuitive thoughts, they are intentionally ambiguous and perplexing, and have a mystical nature which is deployed intentionally to expose the reader to holes and incongruency. This is meant to be self-reflexive, making the reader question the infinite , anti-heirachal nature of thinking. I reckon you could go as far to say it is Oral in its tradition, invoking the pre-literacy of Homeric poets, who passed down the lyrical substance and interpreted the epic as they heard. I guess in a way Bucky interpreted what he heard of American Modernity through the wireless radio-waves , the dusty books on architecture at Harvard ( where he was expelled from twice ) and actively decided to envision a new world order, in reaction to the dotty logic of the American way of life. Thinking outside the dark corridors of convention, and searching for a cosmic intelligence, using the 'mind through the mind', as he says, allowed his thoughts to be generated and realized in Utopian architectural feats such as the Geodesic Dome and the Dymaxiom.
The concept of teleology developed in 'NCTTM' by Bucky is a wonderful Hybrid of theory and fact , combining the symbol for symmetrical expansion with 'X' with the equation mark '=', considered infertile for the fact that its parallel lines never intersect, remaining pure theory. By combining these two lines Bucky created a bow tie, inventing a logical successor that symbolizes a factual equation |><|
The principle is best understood as:
The subjective to objective process, intermittent, only-spontaneous, borderline-conscious and within self communicating system that distills equitable principles - from our pluralities of matching experiences and re-integrates selections from those net generalized principles into unique experimental control patterns.
The factuality of the Bow Tie is good because it can help explain the instrument building in Dylan's latest project Musique Povera.