Re: web summit and all that. Proclaiming a space for the absence of ideology is an intrinsic paradox. The absence of ideology -is- itself an ideology. It is the magic trick of its supposed disappearance, and thus the ensuring of its unregulated advancement. Zuckerberg has been doing this for a while… look where it’s brought us.
“Ommandala”, a recent installation piece by Pedro Alves da Veiga, is currently on display at the Cerveira Biennale in Portugal. And it is certainly one of my personal highlights. Besides its evident aesthetic sophistication, it is exquisitely rich in semantic and philosophical propositions – no small feat when it comes to digital media largely reliant on random participant vocal input.
Half of the installation is made of a layer of objects the author gathered around his own private spaces, each enclosed in its own glass: a circle shrouded in semi-obscurity, a potent metaphor for the individual desire to confer a transcendence to our daily existence. We are what we own, we become what we make, we elevate ourselves through offering… the magic circle of glass is fragile and only half-visible, as an invitation to either catch a fleeting glimpse of someone else’s intimacy, or otherwise scrutinise it in proximity, faith in what we may guess among the shadows and reflections.
The other half, a projection, is equally engaging on a sensorial level, but this time the elements are a lot more readily readable; it offers an ever-mutating kaleidoscope of patterns made up of objects one might guess would correspond to the ones physically present. As the material object subsides in the shade, so its digital mimesis flourishes exuberant…
The kaleidoscope shifts randomly in accordance to the vocal input of visitors. And here lies Veiga’s fine touch: what could easily become a succession of endless, senseless patterns is provided with meaning through the figuration present – and in how our own vocal stimuli (words uttered, questions asked, whispers and roars) transform into a personal oracle.
I asked Ommandala what my future would bring. The projected objects reassembled and, through the very human ability to provide meaning out of semantic association, they spoke to me as metaphor, both open ended and surprisingly tangible. A bit like a cross between astrology and psychoanalysis. It felt right.
Images and info here
Photo by Pedro Alves da Veiga, 2018
Songs for Summer… this one by early Santana, introduced to me by my cousins (who were musically always one step ahead) via the double-album Moonflower. We spent a Summer vacation together in Southern France and listened to it incessantly. I fell in love with it in no time.
Listening now, what stands out are the melancholic echoes of Mahavishnu and Woodstock, as well as the gorgeous bite of Mexican idioms merging with the soothing landscapes of California…
As the landscape of popular culture changed, Carlos Santana gradually lost the plot… after crossing his own musical desert (avoid their 1980s output for your own good), he resurrected in the late 1990s as a gigantic pop phenomenon. But this was another Santana, one I have no interest in; anything up until around 1977 is definitely worth it, I’d say.
David Sylvian’s “Brilliant Trees” triggered a personal epiphany, all the way back in 1984… it opened up a way of seeing, a way of listening and a way of reflecting. It may well have been the beginning of a gradual shedding of the “angry young man” persona, a slow path towards adulthood.
And it may well have provided me with my first synaesthetic musical experience: to this day, Weathered Wall conjures incredibly vivid images of a seaside village at dawn immersed in fog. Go figure.
In this corridor we bathe in white
from walls to garments to a filtered sunshine
beyond the curtains, Life takes place
So they say
The chamber is quiet, attentive
All devices buzz, expectant
And vital signs declare normalcy
In this circle lies an unspoken complicity
A hunger emerges for all else, elsewhere
from bile and vertigo, hope against hope
I’ve been having very vivid dreams lately… where I find myself in past locations, open landscapes… journeys, pilgrimages, biographical resolutions, dear departed suddenly alive.
Had one of these last night, where enmeshed in the detailed narrative a melody emerged. I woke up trying to recall who was/were the author(s)… spent the whole morning trying to remember to no avail.
I just did. It perfectly conveys the mood in these current dreams of mine:
Thomas Leer is one of the great unsung heroes of the 1980s… supremely talented, with a gorgeous voice and a gift for melody and groove and texture -and- mood, his career somehow never really took off. A cult-like figure of the indie/electronic scene (“Contradictions LP” is pure gold), he proceeded to try pop (“Scale of Ten”) but just wasn’t able to compete with the giants. Then again, he may have made too many concessions at this point…
His luck seemed to be on the verge of changing when ZTT teamed him up with Claudia Brucken of then-imploded Propaganda, but the duo committed the “sin” of extending the shiny aesthetics of the label’s rooster as these were going out of fashion. Act, a gem of a band, flopped… and Thomas Leer seemed to fall off the radar.
Guess again: he is still very much following his muse… in his own terms. His nocturnal, promiscuous sounds of yore still hunting down their own traces and reconfiguring feverishly.
Highly recommended. A sample of his online shop here…
… and a classic:
MAAT’s exhibition-manifesto “Eco-Visionaries” feels like a mixed bag – personally I’m not entirely sure it fulfils the pedagogical/activist premise: as the environment seems so geared towards aesthetics and entertainment, there is a danger of emptying the urgency of the subject. Its magnitude may end up distracting from the necessary engagement with the most poignant pieces: I saw this happen as visitors sampled in passing some of the videos that need to be watched in full in order to leave an effective imprint.
However, I do not want to detract from what is mostly an impressive exhibition, definitely worth checking out. Two pieces in particular, IMHO: Superflex’s “Flooded McDonald’s” video is a hypnotic experience where an abandoned fast food joint is gradually submerged in full; and Rimini Protokoll’s “win >< win” installation is a blueprint for what “interactive” can actually accomplish beyond mere sensor-triggered random noise.
None of my friends seemed to share my deep interest in Telectu back then, some were even hostile – maybe due to the fact that Vítor Rua had traded the promise of stardom with GNR for these foreboding, hermetic corridors of avant-garde. Telectu thus became a solitary pleasure for a while; I found a few kindred spirits throughout the years, but all seemed to happen off the radar somehow.
I commend Vítor Rua on this revisitation. It is an essential page of Portuguese avant-garde electronica that does need to be properly acknowledged and remembered. It is unlikely I’ll be able to make it, but hopefully this occasion will be repeated.