2401 Folsom St. (Entrance at 3295 20th Street), San Francisco, California 94110
by Kara Q. Smith
On the Wednesday of October 26, 2011, I deliberately found myself sipping rum and coconut water at Kadist Art Foundation for the presentation of Corrected Slogans, hosted by Julian Myers.
Two performers, who I had never heard of previous to this evening, Jim Fairchild, famously known as a member of the band Modest Mouse, and Natasha Wheat, a Chicago-based artist, took the stage silently and began the show. A series of several very short song-like performances ensued featuring Fairchild on electric guitar, though Wheat strummed her own on one of the numbers in addition to leading most of the vocals. The microphone distorted Wheat’s voice and the lyrics were near impossible to make out. I would call the sound “minimalist noise,” and I liked it. I liked the sound. It was a classic early ‘80s east-village new wave yet the brevity of each song, and the whole set, gave the audio a new feel. While it had the makings of a traditionally defined concert-audience set up, the performance did not seem like a concert. The latent ephemerality, the lack of clapping between “songs”, and the cogitating audience were categorical reminders of the evening at hand.
“Remembering everything, resisting through our memory, telling the stories that the domination silences, refusing to become victims of our own idea of security, this could be a beginning.”[i]
Curated by Myers, these two artists/musicians who don’t typically work together were asked to create a new musical piece using the text from an art piece by Claire Fontaine. Fontaine’s piece, selected by Myers, Requiem for Jean Charles de Menezes[ii], is a short manifesto-like text printed on a small handout and based on the wrongful assassination of Menezes, by London police after he was misidentified as a suspect in the attempted bombings of the London Underground in 2005. As details of the man shot by police at Occupy Oakland on the day of the performance were unfolding, this text held a particular timeliness.
The nature of collaboration, especially as it relates to curation, is a hot-button topic in contemporary art and placing it in dialogue with the events of say, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the concept of Democracy in general could lead to fruitful discussion, helping us better interpret the way we behave in our environment. Touching on the collective human condition, we could also think of how collaboration discursively relates to community, and then further, and relevant to the evening, how community is defined by say, musical groups, audiences, and the specific methods and times when the two intersect. Not to mention, addressing the relevancy, or lack thereof, of a poetic political text (Fontaine’s piece) performed by people (Fairchild and Wheat) who did not write the text and may not even agree with it, especially when the author of the text (Fontaine) is not directly involved in the collaboration.
As the panel discussion portion of the evening commenced, panel and audience touched on a little of all of the aforementioned subjects, often in grad-school linguistic terms, but nonetheless much piquant subject matter was bandied. Somewhere in the beginning of the discussion, Meyers contextualized the nature of why this performance came together on this evening, which was, as he explained, through a record he came across, entitled Corrected Slogans, 1976, by art-student musical group The Red Krayola[iii], produced in collaboration with Art & Language. And this is when my notes really started to make no sense. So many layers of collaboration! After a dashing young man in the audience compared Fairchild and Wheat’s rendition of Fontaine to French New Wave cinema, due to some unclear connection to Kathryn Bigelow, I had to leave. I had to get home and google all these people so I could begin to distill some of the discussion points.[iv]
—Kara Q. Smith
[i] Claire Fontaine. Requiem for Jean Charles de Menezes: Notes on the state of Exception/ Notes sur l'état d'exception [excerpt], 2005; Text pile/window announcement with statement, A5 double-sided photocopies, free copyright.
[ii] See the piece here: http://www.clairefontaine.ws/works/27.html
[iii] Worth checking out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfoqNLPvtbE
[iv] Work still in progress.