Yesterday I attended Jamie Hook’s Open City Dialogue event at Pete’s Candy Store. The bar hosts this bi-weekly lecture series moderated by Mr. Hook inviting speakers of all realms sharing their obsessive stories and experiences. Last night I had the honor of sharing the same space as the one and only David Byrne. It was a clusterfucked madhouse, I was kicked out of the stage area and moped starring wide eyed at a screen by the bar, neck strained and photographs crooked.
All was silence when Mr. Byrne began his spastic and hurried rant on music and its origins, arguing specifically about space as a primary source of inspiration when creating music. I have a few bones to pick about this declaration, as he dismisses romantic and personal expression as the starting point in concocting a piece whether music or art in general. He supports this with images and sound bites beginning from Wagner and Mozart and how their position as resident composers within cathedrals and palace rooms determined the various sound components within each composition. He worked his way up to jazz, country, disco, hip hop and pop and how musical and cultural evolution progressed to focus less on nuance and more on dance and space, making beats and sounds that cater to get your feet tappin’ and heads bobbin’.
There were sporadic spits of awkward humor that caused both a snicker and question marks from my end. I most certainly can’t deny that space is considered when writing music to be performed in. Rhythm, percussion, melody, and its consequent reverberations are all affected by its host space but I find it a bit absurd to declare that if not all, many artists create pieces with key consideration to space. I mean, when you are unknown, undiscovered and unsung with no opportunity to show or perform and you just happened to be a genius, will you not make work despite not having a home to place/play your work? This is no new idea and my questioning is nothing profound but I couldn’t help stomp my foot down and shout a fat “no way!” when he went on describing fine artists, especially painters and how they must consider the galleries and museum their surrounded by, especially all those spaces in Chelsea when they’re making their work. I found it condescending to hear him say something along the lines of “Paintings are flat, on canvas, and go on walls. So naturally they are thinking about galleries when they make their work.” What??
By all means between being employed by both established artists and galleries, space is an important contributor to the creative process, but to be so dismissive of ideas, concepts, expressions, personal or institutional, or cultural or political, is just wrong. His argument works for site specific installations and works dealing with institutional critique, maybe, but to relay the multifarious elements that go to create an artwork and honing it down to the importance of size and scale seems plain absurdity.
Mr. Byrne created an amazing piece in collaboration with Creative Time at the Battery Maritime Building called Playing the Building and his argument works with precision here. Tubes are attached from an organ to various columns, tubes, entrances, and windows in this vast vacant space. Prick your fingers along the instrument and you’ve written a symphony of noise echoing within and through the space. Space and sound are interconnected and it is a perfect example of what he is stating. But it is not a universal form of creation.
I’ll just start repeating and contradicting myself if I go any further. I do however want to note an article I read this morning in ArtForum by Anthony Huberman who talks about Fluxus arist and poet Robert Filliou and his small and short-lived art space in France called The Smiling Cedilla. It was run with a mission to share and emphasize activities based on humor and play, and its functions were inspired by the utopian-socialist philosopher Charles Fourier who imagined a system based in passionate attraction that went beyond rationale and self-consciousness, analysis and equations. This artist run space was unmoved by money, expertise and careerism and encouraged intuition, improvisation, clumsiness, and imperfection. It shared a motto that “art is what makes life more interesting than art”, and this is reflected in the multiple one night exhibitions, apartment shows, and random happenings that have sprouted as a result of a decaying art market today. Artists, as broke as they may be, are taking it in their own hands once again and making shit happen within this community to share and interact with each other. This is most notably happening way outside Chelsea, which Byrne seems to epitomize as a space for inspiration and creation. I’m certainly not trying to demonize what the “lecture” premised. I’m just saying galleries and museums, arenas and opera halls, theaters and stadiums are not in my community’s vocabulary when it comes to creative production and that’s perfectly ok, we are getting by just fine.