Saturday, August 04, 2012

Residency Thoughts

The CATWALK Residency is over and I'm back in Denver, safe and sound (and due to some ticketing issues on the flight home, with my very first ever first-class flight along the way)!

I certainly learned a lot about residencies in this first experience, though truth be told, all residencies are not created equal. This residency only has two artists stay at a time, and each has their own housing. Pretty luxurious.

I made a few short works there, and am happy with a couple of them, but for the most part, the residency became a chance to experiment with some new ideas, try them out, and sometimes fail. Though that can be a good thing too!

I ended up working on about four projects. In summary, here was my progress.

1. A solo organ video! The harmonium from the shed was hauled out to the woods for videotaping. Little did I know how heavy it would be. I wrote a very minimalist piece for it, planned on videotaping it around sunset- where the halfway point of the video would be that evening's sunset time. I wanted the performance to be about an hour, but I only played for about a half hour. I then took the video and the recording and sped them up, so hopefully we could see the light fade in the woods. Problems with this performance (aside from the fact that the organ was nearly broken) included all the bugs in the woods biting me, and the fact that the light in the woods changed so subtly that you can hardly see the difference from the beginning to the end of the video. This project was about 70% successful, I'd say, but gives me lots of hope for future similar projects involving time and light outdoors.

2. Bell trees! I crocheted long strands of yarn that were attached to bells, and then wired them up in 20-foot-tall tree branches so you could ring them from the ground. This was probably the most simple idea but the most successful project. I was worried that the bells might rust as it was very rainy; I had to wait for the groundskeeper to help me with the ladders after a weekend away. Thankfully the bells stayed pretty dry, were sheltered under a lot of leaves. With the help of the other visiting artist, a painter named Alexis Neider, we made a little video of the bells in action too. The background noise of the camera is a little distracting but overall success I'd grade myself at 85%.

3. Outdoors 1. A song, with words from the 19th-century philosopher John Ruskin, mixed with texts from the original builder of the residency's structure, the Hudson River School painter Charles Herbert Moore. The song is pretty cool, it's like an electronic dance jam with cicadas buzzing and sampled choir sounds from the residency's old Kurzweil keyboard. I came up with a performance piece for this song and we videotaped it. Again, there were some problems. My lipsynching abilities apparently suck. It was very hot, and very windy, so I'm super sweaty in the video and things are blowing off of the table we're trying to videotape. Not very convenient. I am also not a video editor and have no intentions of training, I'd rather hand the project to a professional. Still, there are some good ideas in the video. About 2 minutes of it are pretty snazzy. The rest I'm still a bit embarassed to show people. Performance success: 90%, video success, 70%. Enjoyment of the Upstate New York heat and humidity while carrying a heavy table 500 yards: 0%.

4. Outdoors 2: This piece was/is a companion piece to Outdoors 1. Outdoors 1 is like the 'daytime' piece and this is the 'nighttime'. Unfortunately I didn't have time to finish it. Perhaps later this summer I will revisit. It has some great sounds of machinery around the residency, chainsaws, thunderstorms, and windchimes at the local Wal-Mart, so I do think it has the most geographical 'flavor' of that area.

I went on a lot of art-seeing trips on the residency, which was great, something I rarely get to treat myself to even though I love galleries and museums. I went to New York City for a day, and to Mass MoCA for another. I talked a lot about my work with people, which was also good. The time to relax and enjoy some new scenery was also really beneficial. I met a woman who talks to angels. I met a Columbia poetry professor who lives in a seventeenth-century Dutch farmhouse. 17th century! I also met up with friends who I haven't seen in years, got to see my parents for a few great days, and experienced the kindnesses of local residents curious to meet someone new in the area.

All in all, it was a time I'd surely repeat. It was a time that helped me think about music, time, nature, and using the resources around me in new and interesting ways.


AvesMaria said...

Sounds overall like it was a great experience. I'm intrigued by the architectural sculptures in that last photo - where did you take it? Who made them?

Midnight said...

That's two sculptures at Mass MoCA for the 'Invisible Cities' exhibit, organized around Italo Calvino's book! The piece in the foreground is by Diana al-Hadid. I forget the artist who made the piece in the background (I do know it is by one of these people in the show: Carlos Garaicoa, Sopheap Pich, Emeka Ogboha, Francesco Simeti, Miha Strukelj, or Kim Faler), but it is all made of woven and wired wicker basket structures!

AvesMaria said...

That sounds amazing. I love that book, and I bet art inspired by it is equally transcendent and wonderful.