Lesson Nº 1 + The Ascension
Glenn Branca has always been a musician positioned halfway between the role of avant-garde composer and that of a rock musician. A pupil and disciple of the masters of American minimalism such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, he has always had to fight against prejudice and fierce criticism. His position was certainly uncomfortable, too academic for rock fans and too “politically incorrect” for academics. In fact, Branca was trying to unhinge all the limits imposed by the rigid schemes of the avant-garde, aware of the fact that those who want to be truly avant-garde should have no limits. John Cage was also able to criticize him, even calling him a fascist ( Luciano Berio also did so for all minimalists) for the excessive rigidity of his compositions, even though he recognized his innovative power. After having created his best known album, The Ascension (1981), a true monument of maximalism played with a classical rock formation (guitars, bass and drums), he tries to approach a different format, the Symphony, as always halfway between rock and academia. Branca will like the experiment and will re-propose it several times in the following decades, to date there are sixteen symphonies (not all recordings are available). Here is how young Branca’s ensemble appeared to the American composer John Adams in one of his first live performances of the First Symphony: “Branca’s event that I listened to at the Japan Center Theater in San Francisco in 1981 was one of his symphonies for guitar . The group didn’t look very different from thousands of other independent or alternative rock bands of the time: guys in jeans and worn t-shirts busy with cables while maintaining that typical distracted expression of rock musicians.
“Inspired by architect Buckminster Fuller’s interest in the geometry of structure, Snelson’s experiments led to a prototype for a “floating compression structure.” Fuller subsequently credited Snelson with having invented a new structural principle which the architect named tensegrity, a contraction of the words tension and integrity.
These investigations into the physical properties of structure became more fully realized as an art form beginning in the 1950s. Snelson created sculptures consisting of tubes and cables. Cylinders of steel seemingly dance through space in defiance of gravity, yet it is the structural competition between tension and compression which underlies their construction. Snelson finds beauty in bringing these forces of nature into balance: the rigid compression tubes pushing outward, the flexible tension cables pulling inward. His sculptures would maintain their structural integrity beyond gravity, in the vacuum of outer space.” Joelle Burrows
Aurélien Bory is a Toulouse-based choreographer working at the intersection of dance, circus and visual art. In Plexus, he encloses the Japanese dancer Kaori Ito in a forest of tensioned vertical cables. It’s as if she’s in a transparent cuboid cage. We can see her, but her image is blurred by the shimmer of Arno Veyrat’s lighting as it moves across the cables. Ito strains against these confines, writhing, flailing and hurling herself against the cables. Every sound is hugely amplified, so with her every movement we are assailed by a high-tensile jangling and groaning. At intervals she subjects her environment to furious challenge, racing backwards and forwards within the limited inner space so that the cage rocks on its axis. At other times she positions herself between the cables so that they bear her weight, and hangs there like an exhausted insect, faintly articulating her limbs.
This work consists of 2500 magnetic wire cables that connect an emitter (one square meter made of epoxy resin) that consists of a 50 × 50 grid with photo sensors that have their counterparts in the receiver with a grid of bulbs. Thus the sensors detect the light and transmit in parallel each pixel (“image element”) with its corresponding brightness effect to the light bulb in the receiver. Unlike conventional electronic image transmission procedures, “A Parallel Image” uses a technologically transparent procedure, transmitting to the viewer a correspondence between the real world and its transmission.
Two Hundred and Seventy
Through the combination of an everyday material with precise technology the mixed media installation fills the whole columned hall from the 19th century with its fluid movement and peculiar sound. Concavely arranged and floating above the spectators heads the form of the artwork seems to pass the skylight like the sun’s rays. Subdivided into nine columns, the nearly 70 square metres large piece of art follows a site-specific choreography determined by a program. Its moving surface is made from 270 white garbage bags, being inflated and deflated. In this way shapes and the boundaries of the installation itself start to dissolve. “Two Hundred and Seventy“ is the first installation with an undisguised view behind the scenes and onto the origin of the wavelike and organic movement: 1080 fans, lots of cables and 45 circuit boards