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Freedom to Act

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This photograph is of Evan Parker and Paul G. Smyth playing upstairs in the National Concert Hall in Dublin last month. This was part of an ongoing series of improvised duo concerts that Paul has organised in conjunction with Note Productions, and features a range of leading figures from the improv world. Evan Parker is, of course, something of a legend in that scene, and over the years has also played on records by people like Scott Walker and Robert Wyatt to boot. The gig was really great – far more coherent and accessible than I expected it to be. Fully improvised music can be somewhat hit and miss for me. I sometimes find it invigorating, as if I am up there with the players on that weird tight-rope trying to collectively negotiate a path from one point to another. The in-the-moment nature of the experience can be exhilarating and exciting and when that happens it seems like all music should be like this. At other times though, it completely loses me, and I find myself longing for a tune or a song or something else I can latch on to, and wondering what I am doing actually listening to this stuff. Continue Reading »

Amid The Deepening Shades

mvestleThis is a photograph taken during the exhibition Amid The Deepening Shades which took place at the Deer Park hotel in Howth back in November 2014 and was curated by the artists Ruth Clinton and Niamh Moriarty. The Deer Park is no longer in use as a hotel and occupies a spectacular location in the grounds out the back of Howth Castle. The photograph was taken during a music performance by the drone/noise group mvestle which happened inside the drained hotel swimming pool one Sunday afternoon. I’m sure I was not the only person to feel echoes of Kubrick’s The Shining from the whole event. As if the location of the abandoned hotel was not enough, when I went for a stroll around some of the empty corridors, I came across a child’s bicycle lying on the floor outside the door of one of hotel rooms. They assure me they didn’t put it there on purpose but I don’t think I believe them.

Spacetime As Medium

Photograph by Paul Shanahan

Photograph by Paul Shanahan

Now it seems obvious. The clue was in the name all along. But none of us who were present at any of the Wormholes performances of the 1990s really grasped the full scope of their conceptual project. We assumed that their ramshackle semi-improvised live actions were of their time and of their time only. We assumed that when they disappeared in 1999 we might not see them again. We assumed that their work would probably live on only through memory, folklore, and sporadic documentation. We assumed also that the event announced for December 12 2014, to mark the end of the Joinery, was a mere reenactment, a restaging of an iconic Wormholes performance, albeit one staged by the original performers.

The usual questions stirred in our minds about the validity of such practices. Does performance only exist in the present? If so, is it possible to recreate a present that is now long past? Can experiences and meaning be transported through time? How will the new context affect the reception of the work on the part of the audience? What new light will be shed on the Wormholes’ practice by this spatial and temporal dislocation?

But when they pick up their instruments and launch into the opening chords of ‘Marshmellow’, all of these questions are suddenly made redundant. The Wormholes did not go away for fifteen years at all, and we have not been waiting for them to come back. They have always been already here, waiting for us. This wasn’t a reenactment of the past. This was the past. This is the future. How they found the tunnel through spacetime now seems irrelevant. What’s important is that from the start, they knew it was there. Now we know too. Or perhaps we always did.

This text was written at the invitation of the Paper Visual Art journal and was published as one of a number of PVA tickets that were created to mark the end of the Joinery art and performance space in December 2013. PVA tickets are short reviews and pieces of creative writing that are printed and distributed around art galleries and other venues around Dublin. This is number 10 in the series. Thanks to Niamh Dunphy for inviting me to write one and for going with my suggestion of writing about a band as opposed to an art exhibition. Thanks to Paul Shanahan for the photograph.

Lee Ranaldo

This is Lee Ranaldo playing a recent solo acoustic gig in Dublin. Sonic Youth are on hiatus at the moment and consequently there doesn’t seem to be much hope of any new records any time soon. The upside of this though is that all of the members are not only pursuing interesting solo projects but also touring them in venues that are much smaller and more intimate than the ones they would be playing in if the whole band were in tow. Lee Ranaldo’s show was in the Bello Bar, which fits maybe 100 people – a far cry from the last time I saw Sonic Youth, which was at an ATP event in the UK a few years back, with an audience of a couple of thousand. Continue Reading »

Liverpool Psychfest 8

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Last one of the set. This is Sudden Death Of Stars who kicked off proceedings on the Furnace stage on Saturday afternoon. Another double exposure.

Liverpool Psychfest 7

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Last but one. This is Grumbling Fur again but this time shot from front of stage rather than the side.

Liverpool Psychfest 6

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This is Hills, from Sweden. Find out more about them here.

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