from pastelegram.org, June 2011 – April 2014
"Unsound’s" mechanics lie in Barbara Perea’s life, with the nine artists of her eponymously-titled curator’s project coming from her place of residence and travels during 2012. Five of the project’s artists live in Mexico and have worked with Perea before—Manuel Rocha, Enrique Ježik, Juanjosé Rivas, Tania Candiani and Lorena Mal—and three work out of San Antonio, where Perea completed a month-long residency in Summer 2012 (Karen Mahaffey, Wolverton and Alas). One, Nick Hennies, lives in Austin and conversed with Perea at her Two Ships Passing engagement, where they discussed avant-garde music and sound art. All nine work with sound, like Perea.
For her online issue for Pastelegram, Perea isolated John Cage as a thread out of these base mechanics. Few would necessarily see John Cage in the nine artworks of her central project, but his figure and works permeate the texts that revolve around the project. And the blend between Cage and a project based in Perea’s circumstances is appropriate, since Cage worked for a more-sustained and less-categorizing attention to one’s surroundings:
Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments.1
It is a matter of choice out of chance phenomena. A truck passes by, and one can choose to listen to it or one can concentrate on other things. Listening and seeing become forms of making. Perea’s collection of Cage quotes in “Trucks passing by music” turns Cage’s writings into chance phenomena made significant in Perea’s Cage-derived structure.
Applying Cagean structures to contemporary life happens again in Ben Judson’s comparison of Cage’s Reunion with Facebook programming in “Everyday Algorithms.” Judson looks to Cage’s Reunion as a type of program—where chess players’ moves produced preset sounds—that creates an open structure permeable to the work’s environment. It might, as Judson sees it, be comparable to Facebook’s way of producing news, in which we see brief fragments of our friend’s lives, affections and reading habits. Yet where Cage’s Reunion left the distinctions between the work’s structure and its chance elements clear, the same can’t be said for Facebook. There is a governing structure that determines what fragments we see, but it is large and complicated enough to be incomprehensible.
Such scale is part of using the everyday. Since it offers no given end or beginning, boundary-making is ultimately left to each individual. The massive scale of Cage’s Organ²/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible), as Perea discusses it in “As Slow as (Inhumanly) Possible: Meditations on Time,” continues in the same vein: “it, like life, simply goes on.”2
- 1. "The Future of Music: Credo," 1937. Published in Richard Kostelanetz, John Cage, An Anthology (New York, 1968). Quoted in Perea, "Trucks passing by music," Pastelegram 2:3 (April 2013).
- 2. Jill Johnston, "There Is No Silence Now," The Village Voice, 1968. Reprinted in Marmalade Me (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1971): 32-36.