[-empyre-] video, production, objects (maybe not), ETC!

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Sep 18 06:20:51 AEST 2015

Hi, and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this discussion. I 
had several residencies at ETC; often others came with me, Jodee Brower, 
Foofwa d'Imobilite, and my partner, Azure Carter. During the residencies, 
I usually produced about fifteen hours of work, which included, video, 
stills/photography, and audio. I've never been comfortable working with 
pieces per se (beginning a piece, finishing one, working on one, etc.), 
but, early on and thinking through both free jazz (I work in free 
improvisation among other things), and the art of people like Nancy 
Kitchel, I was interested in a continuous production or long and almost 
interminable forms (for example the 4-day improvisation at Eyebeam which 
lasted I think 3-days of continuous music, day and night, with Jackson 
Moore and Chris Diasparra co-organizing); even now, I keep working on an 
'Internet Text,' started in 1994 and continuing daily, etc. etc. So for 
me, there was the idea of inhabiting the loft/studio, working in it 
constantly, day and night, as much as possible, producing and inter- 
weaving things. My concerns have been several-fold - the relationship 
between consciousness and formal systems potentially descriptive of the 
world; sexuality, language, and the body, and the interruptions of 
language at the limits of thought; issues of anguish and physical 
exhaustion; and working within and without a 'fuzzy' technological 
environment that spilled into psychogeographies (for example, Foofwa and 
Azure dancing in the middle of the street on a cold winter's night, 
wearing ballet outfits and videoed from above; Foofwa dancing on the 
railing of a bridge over a frozen pond in 19-degree weather, and so 
forth). There were also body works that mapped against the video 
apparatus, that were permeated by the digital and its deconstruction; a 
simple example was a video segment (I can't really call it or others 
'pieces') opening with tone and color bars, then going to audio silence, 
while the screen carried an image of me making all sorts of noises and 
gestures which produced flickering rectangles of light - the translation 
was impervious, incapable of recuperation, but something, some sort of 
communication seemed to be going on...)

With Foofwa, our first, opening segment, that I remember, was 'Nikuko,'
consisting of him doing pirouettes rapidly, beyond the point of 
exhaustion, while I spoke, clapped my hands, etc. - the sound resulting in 
five cameras switching views (and filters/etc.), all aimed at him. Azure 
sat in a ballet dress, watching; at the end she stands and walks off. The 
piece is gritty, his dancing is furious. This was followed up by 'ennui,'
where Foofwa danced as fast as possible (against the brick wall); I played 
guitar as fast as possible, Azure sang - and we did this for as long as we 
could, which amounted to 10-plus minutes.

The ETC environment was incredible; one switch and everything was on, we 
could pace the loft, go out at 4 a.m. for donuts, perform in the gazebo in 
the middle of the night (which led to some interested altercations with 
locals screaming "faggot"; run across to the bookstore for volumes that 
might provide inspiration. I used the Mirage a _lot_; I wish I still had 
one; its combination of analog filters and digital impetus or vice versa, 
programmed in hex, as absolutely amazing. I also used a very old character 
generator for text above, below, and flickering through whatever else was 
going on.

We never met Sherry or Ralph; we worked with Hank, who was wonderful. As 
far as archiving goes, I've probably produced about 10 terabytes of work; 
I keep a directory at the url below, but it's only 30 gigabytes, and even 
with wildly reduced .mp4 or .mp3, I have to keep shuffling out files; 
there just isn't room for everything.

The EIAJ older videos, well before ETC, haven't been recovered, except for 
the Kathy Acker Blue Film tape; as you know, the chemical decomposition of 
the tapes has rendered them increasingly noisy. I worked also in VHS, 
Beta, 3/4", 8mm, Hi8, tape, and now ssd like everyone else; I've been 
able to convert a few things. I also worked concurrently early on with 8mm 
and S8 film, later with 16mm sound; the last was often converted and then 
processed in video. Even with 16mm sound, it was real-time; I used news 
camera, and would run the raw film several times through them, in order to 
add sound-on-sound or other visuals, etc. At UCLA I made a film a week, 
dealing with the same concerns as above; I've been consistent in my 

Finally a word about psychogeography (hopefully not with too much ref. to 
situationism) - I'm fascinated by fossils, histories, paleohistories, 
etc., and work with any local information I can, not out of idle 
curiosity, but out of an attempt to come to grips with grounds, both 
shifting and (hallucinatory) as-if permanent; the as-if figures in a lot 
of my work. So for example, we were just in Johnstown, PA, with Jeremy 
Justice, and I did several pieces with Jeremy and Azure, using the 
Johnstown Inclined Plane railway, the steepest in the world (72 deg). I 
came back with a number of files, and am assembling them, drawing out, I'm 
not sure what, from the intersection of vista/shakuhachi/and ride. A bit 
earlier, Azure and I worked with Will Pappenheimer in western Mass. - 
virtual reality mixed with landscape/shakuhachi/echo - and so forth. The 
more the landscape/environment speaks, the more I can withdraw, leaving a 
kind of punctum behind, or maybe its absence.

Again, thanks greatly for the opportunity to participate!

- Alan

web http://www.alansondheim.org, sondheim at panix.com
music: http://www.espdisk.com/alansondheim/
current text http://www.alansondheim.org/tk.txt

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