|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Saturday, April 1, 2023
|She's your guide to the sound world of Fluxus|
Gelsey Bell, who has starred on Broadway as well as in conceptual operas, researches Fluxus, an interdisciplinary collective of artists in the 1960s, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Jan. 16, 2020. Bell will lead listening sessions featuring the museum's Fluxus sound archives through April. Nathan Bajar/The New York Times.
by Seth Colter Walls
NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- On a recent afternoon in the newly reopened and reconceptualized Museum of Modern Art, about a dozen visitors gathered around a table to listen to an old tape recording with singer, composer and scholar Gelsey Bell.
The recording documented a 1959 concert of works by students of John Cage at the New School. Students in that class would go on to become important members of Fluxus, an interdisciplinary collective of artists who inspired by Cage to focus on open-ended instruction-based text works and the music of everyday objects created influential drawings, publications and compositions in the 1960s.
While visual artifacts from MoMAs substantial Fluxus collection have been given a spotlight over the last decade, including in exhibitions of the work of Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneemann, the sound files in the museums possession have not. Thats changing this year, in a collaboration between the departments of education (which operates the new creativity lab on the second floor, where the listening session was held) and drawings and prints (which houses the bulk of the Fluxus archive).
When MoMA was looking for an artist to help guide visitors through these sound artifacts the sessions continue on Feb. 6, March 5 and April 30 it selected a wide-ranging musician who is, in many ways, a contemporary heir of the collectives ethos.
Bell, 37, has been celebrated for her performances in the highly conceptual (and textual) operas of Robert Ashley and Kate Soper, including her coming Romance de la Rose. She has also starred on Broadway, in Dave Malloys Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. Her work engages with drone music as well as with free-improvisation textures familiar from the outer reaches of experimental jazz.
Theres a moment where you discover theres another way of doing things; its freeing, Bell said in an interview after the listening session, about her first encounter with Fluxus. Though she grew up familiar with the standard repertoire, thanks to a mother who was a classical pianist, Bell said the collectives work opened her to new paths of creativity.
My desire to sing in a way thats appropriate for Broadway, thats not going to go away, she said. But I discovered John Cage and Fluxus at the same time. And it just totally upended what I saw as possible, not just for what I could do but for how I could enjoy anything aesthetically.
At MoMA, she played Dick Higgins Constellation for Five Performers (No. 1), which had been performed twice during the 1959 concert. In the first take, a low-frequency buzz indicated radios being switched on. This sound was followed by a synchronized, fortissimo cluster of notes, coming simultaneously from two pianos. Composition complete.
Or was it? The second iteration of the brief work sounded similar. But this time, the quick assault of tones from the pianos issued from higher up in their ranges. The difference between the two versions together, just a minute long brought a wave of laughter, more delighted than incredulous, from the listeners around the table.
The fact that they performed multiple versions is so telling about this aesthetic, that theres many many right ways to do this, she said. And the weirder and more creative you get with it, actually, the better its going to get.
Two recent recordings make clear that Bell is a natural guide to MoMAs Fluxus audio holdings. The first is a spellbinding live recording of Improvement (Don Leaves Linda), captured during the operas 2019 revival. The collaborative approach that is necessary in Ashleys operas can be seen as flowing from Fluxus practices.
Anything Bob made, he talked about how hell only work with geniuses on his pieces, Bell said in an interview, citing in particular Ashleys early years with the ONCE Group, another 1960s collective. Even in his later work which is much more of his single mind you can tell theres a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
And a new album by the Chutneys the free-improvisation trio in which Bell provides vocals reveals multiple layers of Fluxus influence. (The trio will perform at Roulette on Feb. 13.) You can hear tendrils of Ono-style vocalizations in Bells contributions to tracks like Protein. And the same Cage-derived, found-sound aesthetic that fueled Fluxus can also be heard in the range of choices made by the trios drummer, Fast Forward.
The last piece on the album, most of what hes is playing, all that time, are bicycle handles, Bell said. And theyre just the most beautiful, resonant bicycle handles you could ever imagine. I feel like that kind of searching for getting sound from anywhere is very much from the Cage tradition, and you can see that connecting with the Fluxus stuff.
For each of the listening sessions at MoMA, Bell has isolated a collection recording of particular note, which she will tie to subsequent generations of artistic practice. (Future listening sessions will include works by saxophonist and composer Darius Jones, as well as the Art Ensemble of Chicago.)
For the next one, she said, what Im most excited about is a recording of this concert from Douglass College, of Dick Higgins Thousand Symphonies and Philip Corners Fourth Finale. I think all the people involved thought thered been an audio recording that had been lost. So when I found this, I started emailing with Philip: You should know, MoMA has it. It exists.
Similarly, Cages Class of 59 tape was one that stopped Bell in her tracks when she came across it, during her dozens of hours of research in the MoMA archive. That class is so legendary, she said. You read and read about it.
Might there be more possibilities for these Fluxus recordings to be heard after the listening sessions at MoMA conclude in April? Bell hopes so.
I have dreams about taking some of these recordings and putting them into a form that can be released to the world, she said. Im not a record producer, but I can recognize when stuff is good and when I think other people are going to want to hear it.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
January 19, 2020
Still lifes by Pissarro, Cézanne, Manet & friends on view at the Toledo Museum of Art
National Archives apologizes for altering image of 2017 Women's March
Benin welcomes back 28 antique royal artefacts
Unique 300 year old scientific drawings at risk of leaving the UK
Louvre reopens after being blocked by strikers
Masterworks from the collections of Marylou Whitney and J.E. Safra lead Sotheby's auction
Frida Kahlo could barely walk. In this ballet, she dances
New-York Historical Society offers new perspectives on commemorative traditions in two winter exhibitions
Exhibition surveys more than 30 years of Salvo's artistic practice
Newcomb Art Museum opens solo exhibition of work by Brandan "Bmike" Odums
Exhibition of new sculptures by Erwin Wurm opens at Lehmann Maupin
She's your guide to the sound world of Fluxus
Claire Oliver Gallery opens new space in Harlem
Peter Larkin, stage designer with a funky asterisk, dies at 93
Art blooms in gritty Dakar neighbourhood
Carnegie Museum of Art appoints four new department heads
Ketterer Kunst appoints new Head of Contemporary Art
Kunsthalle Basel opens an exhibition of works by Camille Blatrix
Exhibition of recent mixed-media works by Liberia-born artist Trokon Nagbe opens at Skoto Gallery
Prinseps to host auction with first edition rare books from the Indian Nationalist Movement
Norma Tanega, who sang about a cat named Dog, dies at 80
Galerie Guido W. Baudach exhibits works which make use of the color black
Exhibition seeks to examine the real-world impact of computer vision
Pax Romana brings ancient times to life with Feb. 1 auction of antiquities, jewellery, coins & weapons
5 Ways To Use Flowers Around The Home
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.