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Friday, September 4, 2009

The Works: Opening Night at Washington High

Posted by Matt Stangel on Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 7:16 PM

Wayne_Bund--_Second_Works.jpg
  • Wayne Bund

Washington High School circa 10 pm last night, packed with dance culture kids waiting for Gang Gang Dance to take the stage at TBA's Works:

"I'm so fucked up" she tells her friend, sprawled out in the center of the room, staring off into the ceiling, running her fingers through her friend's hair. The friend rolls onto her side, "me too," she says, drawing out her vowels. I found myself remembering what it's like to be totally fried on psychedelics, teenaged, experimenting with no consequences in sight. I too would've laid on the floor, listening to Ethan Rose's randomly deprogrammed music boxes. Dozens of the identical little boxes were spread across the walls of the room, triggered at random and arranged with timers to fumble through an anti-composition that Rose calls Movements.

I put my ear next to one of Rose's music boxes— every few seconds it clicked into rotation, tinging out a note or two and pausing again. I listened to the box's indented cylinder rotating, plucking notes on a bent up set of metal tines (like those of a thumb piano)— I listened to the motor doing a few weak chugs before resting. With my ear close to this music box, the motor itself became part of the song— sounding like a bug trying to crawl out of a plastic cup. Rose's Movements is a subtle thing.

At different times different boxes sound off together. A set of music boxes just next to you might go off, and a moment later the ones behind you. The composition changes most with spacial relativity, with the listener's place in the room— which might've been unsettling if these boxes didn't sound so gentle. The tripping girls also figured out the spacial relativity aspect of Rose's Movements, changing the direction in which they were laying, giggling together.

A few rooms down there were more people interacting with spacial elements at Jesse Hayward's Forever Now and Then Again, a room filled with playfully painted boxes. People throughout the room stacked boxes into unplanned towers— kinda like Jenga if Jenga took up a whole room and the goal was a combination of randomness and knocking shit over. These boxes aren't so much about how they're painted, but how they're arranged— via audience participation. The wild streaks of color on the boxes felt like an invitation to interact with the installation, and people did just that— the boxes crashing and getting rearranged by a rotating cast.

Jesse Haywards Forever Now and Then Again
  • Kenneth Aaron
  • Jesse Hayward's Forever Now and Then Again

I started thinking about Gang Gang Dance: when they'd go on and whether I should get in the long line outside the auditorium. I skipped the line in favor of checking out Brody Condon's Without Sun, a video installation comprised of footage of various people on psychedelic substances, though it felt a little bit like déjà vu after seeing the people pile in Ethan Rose's room. During one section of the video compilation a teenaged boy talks about how his hands do things automatically. He tightens his belt and looks absolutely amazed by the simple act.

After watching Without Sun a few times through I left and realized that the auditorium was filled, the lines were gone, and Gang Gang Dance was about to go on. After a few songs of sloppy tribal dance music accented with heavy synth, lackluster guitar, and much pseudo-melody (plus the obnoxious shrieks of the band's diva lead singer— can't forget those), I started to wish I was in Ethan Rose's room, listening to the engaging anti-composition of his music boxes. When I went back to rejoin Movements it was all locked up.

Outside Washington High a man yelled into the crowd about not bombing the moon, claiming that NASA has plans to do just that; the youngsters were all riled up and trying to mac on each other; people were lined up for cart burritos and I watched the laser projections on the facade of the building. After two cigarettes people started to file out en masse, and I left to go find myself a strong whiskey drink.

The glowing Works facade
  • Wayne Bund
  • The glowing Works facade

I'll be back at the Works tonight because I didn't get a chance to check out all the exhibits— check back over the next week for updates.

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