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Illuminating the Obscure
  • Writer's pictureRejected Religion

Reflections on Trans-States: The Art of Deception Conference, Parallel Panel "Artist as Magician (2)

Trans-States: The Art of Deception Conference, Parallel Panel 3B: Artist as Magician (II) - Chair: Elizabeth Tomos Performances by Yoshe, Ben Jeans Houghton, Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule, and John Moletress (Day 2) This special session centered around performance, and I truly enjoyed all of the offerings that were presented here. Having a background in dance and music, I find myself more capable of recalling the events as they unfolded, as compared to the other spoken sessions. Perhaps this is due to the empathic connection I felt with the performers? Or perhaps I intuitively connect with this language more easily? I’m not sure. Unfortunately, I was a bit late for the start of Yoshe’s talk, so allow me to provide an excerpt taken from the Trans-States program booklet: Yoshe (2022) Cyberfeminist Reimaginings: The Transformative Power of Motion Sensor Music Technology This performance will explore the imaginative nature of the magician, and the power of spectacle in breaking out of tradition and making way for new modes of being. Through electronic music and contemporary dance, I will envisage new conceptions of the body with a focus on confronting and subverting the male gaze. Using motion sensor technology through Imogen Heap’s MiMu gloves, I conceptualise the body as a wand – and in a musical sense, as an instrument. Through this convergence of the physical, spiritual, and virtual, I set out to explore a cyberfeminist reimagining of the body’s relationship to dance, and the possibility of transcendence that this technology offers us. As the body is transformed, so too is our relationship to the creative process, as we are enabled to move beyond traditional instrumentation and the compositional restrictions this can present. This fundamentally mystical method of performance further plays on ideas of trickery and magic, as sound is spellbindingly and invisibly controlled through the air and movement. As is mentioned above, Yoshe is concerned with destabilizing the male gaze and the power imbalances that women often encounter, as well as the potential therapeutic applications of motion sensor technology. I was very curious to see the gloves in action: these special gloves produce musical sounds, specific notes, and words/phrases by means of moving the hands and arms. I am not familiar with this technology at all, but it appeared that the movement of Yoshe’s body also created different melodies and rhythms. The gloves can change frequencies and volumes as well, sending ‘midi’ messages to the computer program; different postures that she makes trigger the midis. Visuals can also be controlled by the gloves, but the venue was experiencing some difficulties, and this aspect was not included in the performance. This performance was mostly programmed, but improvisation is possible with these gloves. I was certainly drawn into Yoshe’s expressions and the entire dynamic of this innovative and emotive performance. Ben Jeans Houghton’s “A HAPTIC HYMN TO VOTIVE-FLUX” needed a bit of time to construct, and while doing so, Ben invited us all to join closely around the objects he (they?) had organized around a small mixing system. In a manner that reminded me of how Reggie Watts creates his music, Ben sang while placing and re-placing different objects on the light box. These objects were small items/toys/trinkets/charms that have been saved since childhood, and these items made space for interacting with the sounds that were produced, and the meaning that was created with this interaction. I definitely felt a trance-like state being created (or invoked?) as the intimate and poignant performance/ritual continued. Ben describes the “altar” as such: This encounter unfolds atop a retrofitted rectangular flight case, splayed open as a book. One side is divided between a light box, topped with a sheet of opaque white perspex – as a frozen pool of glowing milk, alongside a twinned rectangle of black perspex – as the protean oil of unremembered flora and fauna. Secreted contact microphones amplify the arrival of combinations of objects arranged on these surfaces. The other side of the flight case houses a pedal-board of audio electronics, alongside a cornucopia of chromatic objects, whose individuality will come to populate the brief collectivity of the arrangements displayed. [...] A psalm to the numinous non-human eroticism of being, to give voice to the mouthless things, is voiced over and under, through the improvised intonation of mantric glossolalia, prose, and poetry.

Find more about Ben at Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule’s film installation and performance of "Hermes" centers on the traveling, messenger god – running from place to place, person to person, god to god. However, sometimes slowing down is necessary to get your point across more effectively. As Orryelle explains: This is a presentation of recent multi-media praxis with the Ancient Greek God of communications, travel and magic. Hermes is evoked and invoked in a musical video piece timed to a song by Orryelle (violin, voice) and Antwerp electronic musician UrZon. The track will be released on the album ‘Esezezus’ to accompany the book of the same name to be released late 2022 which also contains the poetic evocation of Hermes which is the foundation of the song. A live performance will accompany and intertwine with the music-video in this Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule (2022) Hermes presentation. I will alternately orate and sing some of the verses, while others will be pre-recorded freeing me to move (butoh and other such experimental dance forms) to the music. The performance will be an expression of the malleability of time and space (as Hermes’ domain/s, being both patron of travelers and psychopomp moving between the realms). Sped up movement in the video will often be accompanied by slowed down movement in the live elements, and vice-versa, to suggest a multi-dimensional flux of transcendent yet telluric travel.

Orryelle wore wings around his ankles while chanting and acting as a medium for the god Hermes to communicate through him. It was clear that something profound was taking place during this stirring and forceful performance. At the end of the film, Orryelle is running at light speed, as light and sparks traced many paths throughout the city of Monsanto, Portugal, where the video was filmed, signifying the “more modern extension of the hyper-communicative realms of the Messenger.” Learn more about Orryelle at John Moletress’s “Sonic Sigils” was provided to us on video, and John joined us remotely afterwards. In this performance, John explains that their

...[c]urrent performance work is compelled by sonic ritual methods and sigilisation. Constructed digital sonic environments as ritual tools combine found objects and natural materials with technologies both ancient and contemporary. For instance, a hand-scribed sigil utilizing Austin Osman Spare’s method will be uploaded into a software engine which translates the symbol into frequencies, compelling the sigil forth as a sonic element. These sonic sigils are combined with rhythm from field recordings and other instrumentation to create an ambient score. The instrument that John uses is a beautifully crafted/converted old-fashioned sewing box that produces (with the help of his computer) lush landscapes, deep, organ-like tones that sound as if they are vibrating in an immense space. The sounds develop and reverberate, blend and overlap, rising up and out to the listener. As the piece continues, ‘electronic’ sounds and voices appear alongside distorted ‘dial-up’ computer sounds. This combination of old and futuristic sonic landscapes create a chaotic mix of sounds, tones, and rhythms. In addition to all of this, rhythmic breathing is also layered into the soundscape, which acts as a type of mantra-sigil. As John explained after the video, the software uses drawn sigils, and some sigils are etched into the box itself. The thicker tubes one sees on the interior of the box act as a Theremin. [Theremins involve the manipulation of electromagnetic fields around two antennae that make the instrument look rather like a weird lectern. Players control sounds by moving hands and fingers around a vertical antenna to raise or lower the tone, and up or down over a looped antenna to control volume. ] The musical piece is stunning, giving me goosebumps again and again. I found myself emotionally drawn into the work, as if my imagination had transported me to a different place. You can listen to the piece yourself at John’s Instagram page:

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