Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 4 - Playing Reaktor live

After the morning session hacking the Stylophone, we worked with Jason Singh exploring various software programmes that turn pattern into sound. If you've been following the project you'll know that one programme we've been working with is Reaktor, developed by Native Instruments.

Here's a snippet of the workshop where we start using the software to draw and play live, rather than just creating an image then storing that sound to use as a sample in future compositions.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Day 4 - Hacking a stylophone

Led by Berit Greinke: 7 artists, a stylophone, a screen and squeegee, some binder, graphite powder, cloth, pencils, conductive thread, and live sampling, to create a new prototype for a collectively played textile sound machine.

Here's a short film of us hacking, making, and playing the new machine, with live sampling by Jason Singh. All the noises you hear are created by us playing the stylophone using the newly created textile buttons to control each button of the original stylophone. Jason is sampling, distorting and looping these live, then introduces a drum break underneath. The advantage of using cloth is that you introduce much more flexibility when controlling the stylophone, for example you can play and distort a note for longer, and you turn it into an instrument a group of people can play together, rather than it just being for a solo performer.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Day 3 - talking, sharing, making

Our first day at MNAC (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest). MNAC very kindly helped to host the week and allowed us to use their Media Lab for the week's workshop.

The Museum is housed in the Palace of the Parliament building, built in the 1980's and the infamous former residence of the Ceaucescus. Raised on a man-made hill the building dominates Bucharest's skyline. It seems like wherever you are in the city the building looms in the background, out of the corner of your eye, or on the horizon. A conscious decision one thinks. A whole area of the city was demolished to make way for this monstrosity of a building, apparently the second largest in the world. The surviving buildings around the Parliament show how beautiful and productive the area must once have been, with a mixture of factories, warehouses and houses. It's definitely worth visiting these parts of the city, away from the usual tourist route.

MNAC is housed in a part of the building that was never finished, the rest of the building now being Government offices. The fact that there is a contemporary art gallery in this building is bizarre - a place for expression and creativity amongst a sea of bureaucracy inside a former dictator's palace. I wasn't sure how the building and the spaces within it would affect the collaboration, the creativity and the resulting work. Oppress or inspire? But that's one thing I like about Bucharest, it's full of these sort of contradictions and tensions. You can't take anything in this city for granted.

Given that the museum is housed where it is security is super high for all visitors. Even more so when you have seven artists with all manner of electrical cables, strange machines, liquids, etc turning up. Trying to explain that it wasn't bomb making equipment, but materials for an artists' workshop took some doing, but eventually we were let through. I wondered how Tate Modern would cope if they introduced this level of security checks!!

There's a cafe terrace on the top floor with amazing views of the city, so we sat, gathered our thoughts, drank coffee, smoked cigarettes (oh yeh you can still smoke indoors in Romania, which takes some getting used to again, after the smoking ban in the UK), and looked out onto the surrounding area - a barren, overgrown wilderness, although I hope a haven for wildlife and the dogs. There's a growing movement to get this area opened as its currently blocked in by security walls, to create a new walking and cycle route into the city without having to go around it. Let's hope they succeed as it's currently a waste of what could be a great new and much needed green social space for the people of the city.

In the morning we each introduced and presented our work, as a way of us starting to appreciate each other's individual creative practices and some of the connections between our work.

In the afternoon we started the first collaborative workshop. In the afternoon, we created a 10-metre collective pixel drawing on a roll of grid paper, based on patterns and iconography of Romanian embroidery from the Peasant Museum, and other images in our heads at that moment in time.

Here's a video of us creating and then playing that piece through a player piano machine.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Dancing and Dogs

Here's one of my favourite embroidery patterns from the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. A group of dancers and dogs. My favourite embroideries are the most graphic and the simplest, using repeating iconography with either red or red and black thread on a natural cotton or linen.

Here's a link for more information on traditional romanian dances, including chain dances as depicted on this embroidery.

Dogs are a constant feature of Bucharest, and at night alongside the sound of cars, a major sound of the city. Packs of dogs hanging out together on street corners, disused parts of land, behind garden gates, outside fast food chicken joints waiting for a scrap of food, wandering the streets alone, and risking their life as they wander across or sit in Bucharest's roads. A living reminder of the results of Ceaucescu destroying much of the city, evicting residents and thus setting their pet dogs and now their descendants free to roam the streets.

One day, one particular dog joined us for a stroll across the city, before disappearing under a gate, easily avoiding the high security surrounding the Parliament building. During the week we've sampled many of the dogs' barking for use in future recordings and compositions. They seemed only too pleased to help out.

An obvious soundscape of Bucharest, but too significant a one to ignore.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Day 2 - Visiting the Museum of the Romanian Peasant

Day 2:

Gathered at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant - Muzeul Taranului Roman. I've written about the Museum before in previous posts, but if you haven't visited, you really must.

The idea for the visit was for the group to learn more about traditional Romanian textiles and embroidery as part of wider Romanian rural working life, to see the work in real-life, and to get inspiration for the week ahead.

The Museum is ordinarily closed on Mondays, so very very generously they had agreed to give us a special tour of the museum and its archive. Ion Blajan, Head of Collections at the Museum, guided us through the collection. I've visited the museum on a number of occasions, but it makes such a huge difference having an expert to explain and guide you. Ion was incredibly passionate and of course knowledgeable about the collection. The collection is overwhelming, particularly the textiles- there's so much to absorb. I always find it a very inspiring, but at the same time draining, experience.

The highlight of the visit was being taken behind the scenes into the archives. We were shown some truly amazing embroidered sample books. I could have stayed all afternoon looking and finding out more about these books and the embroideries contained within them, but sadly we had very limited time. You can by arrangement with the Museum go and study the archive, so I plan to go back and really research their collection at some point - the iconography, the techniques, the histories of who made them, where they were made and their social significance. At the moment it seems like I'm barely scratching the surface, only really being able to appreciate their aesthetic value, and a tiny part of their social value.

A huge thank you to Ion and everyone at the Museum for their warm welcome and for giving up their time so generously.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Back from Bucharest

Well, I'm back from an inspiring, challenging, fun and creative week in Bucharest. So over the next week or so I'll post events of each day.

Day 1:

Arrived late sunday. Then Jason, Berit and I met up with the Romanian artists taking part: Carla Szabo, Catalin Matei, and Cosmin Tapu. Sadly and annoyingly the Turkish artists Pinar Basoglu and Gozde Ilkin couldn't fly as the airline had overbooked tickets for the plane..nice one Turkish Airlines. Finally some sun and a warm evening after the wet London weather. Off to an open air bar in a park for laid back club night Sunday Scoop, which Cosmin was dj-ing at. Eating, drinking, chatting, meeting people and even playing Wii. Somehow, with luck more than skill, I even beat Berit at Wii bowling, which was sadly the only time over the next couple of weeks that the English were to win against the Germans! Great DJ-set from Cosmin.

Met music journalist Iona Moldoveanu, who publishes the website freshgoodminimal
. If you're into experimental sound and electronic music it's a brilliant site. Ioana has just started a new record label BuzzRo, supporting new electronic music from Romania. Their first compilation BUZZRO! 2010 features a track from one of the artists taking part this week - Catalin
Matei aka Silly Conductor.
The complilation is published with a Creative Commons licence.
Listen here: BUZZRO!2010

A perfect, relaxed start to the week ahead.

Monday, 5 July 2010

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