Year in Ears 2014 #4 #5 #6

Best Investigations of Sound and Vision

2014 had three powerful entries into the Bay Area’s rich tradition of expanded cinema: the upstart Shapeshifters Cinema, the many film-music projects of composer-performer Lisa Mezzacappa, and a John Davis’ Gravity Spells, the mid-summer convening that culminated his residency at Kala Art Institute, pivoting that mecca for print into an emerging resource for media and social practice art forms.

February 21, 2014
Live Cinema with Lisa Mezzacappa & Konrad Steiner
The Uptown, Oakland

It might have been enough for me that Lisa finally proved that the Uptown (which died in 2014 but not because of this) could support a screening of an experimental film accompanied by a large, creative ensemble. I have issues in this area. But happily, there was so much more:  an unusual moment in Lisa’s work as a composer and Konrad’s work as a filmmaker, with new modalities from each of them and a literal layering of musical and visual motifs. Take a look.

The show had four bands that night, a totally ambitious proposition from Active Music Series in their first annual Active Music Festival. Beauty School was one of those bands, and they terrified everyone with their straightforward ideas free of artifice.

April 13, 2014
Shapeshifters Cinema: Andy Puls
Temescal Art Center, Oakland

I spent 2014 slowly grasping the idea that perhaps the world is a massive vibration, but being kind of cagey about talking about it out loud for fear that someone would think I meant the kind of vibration that is immediately followed by the word Jah and ton of reverb. Not that kind, but of course the kind I’m talking about easily embraces that kind because… it’s the bigger vibration.

Meanwhile, Andy’s “no-source” visualizations found their way (or declared themselves) in the pocket of this contemplation, astounding me with how quickly they entered my bloodstream. His shows strike some as seizure-inducing, but since I haven’t had a seizure at any of them, I find them to be exquisitely subtle, referring more to what is not shown in the signal than to what is brilliantly, unmistakably pulsing on the screen. Seeing an Andy Puls performance is an invitation to surrender to to the psychoacoustic/visual phenomena of difference tones. I admit I could be seeing this completely upside down from the artist’s intention, but it keeps happening, which is why I seek out his work.

July 12, 2014
Gravity Spells Night Two:
Keith and Jeff Evans, Andy Puls, Mark Wilson with Marielle Jakobsons, and Lawrence Jordan with John Davis
Kala Art Institute Gallery, Berkeley

This entire series had the simultaneous trappings of a family reunion, an exclusive art opening, an encyclopedic survey, an all ages punk rock show, a mild hallucinogen and a science fair, resting by a broad, tree-lined boulevard during an uncharacteristically summery summer in the Bay Area. Everyone I ran into there kind of couldn’t believe their luck at attending, performing, or scoring a chair with a decent sight line. This particular night was an avalanche of abstraction and intimacy: Brothers Evans in a rare duet, evoking all kinds of other brothers (like Kuchars, or Spampinatos) with their installation of elaborate physical systems that reflect and layer sound. An electric guitar was there like a glaring, unadorned noun. Buy the monograph.

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