Chris Duncan’s live, improvised sound performance, “Aspects of Light”, presented at Shapeshifters Cinema, Oakland this past Sunday, was at once meditative and intense, ethereal and grounding. Duncan promised something weird, and he delivered – in a good way.
Artists Maria Otero, Hilary Wiedemann, and Lauren Douglas each contributed video works for the performance which, along with a video by Duncan, captured aspects of natural light, including: a time-lapse recording of one day, sunrise to sunset, looking through a grain silo (Duncan), flickering images of the sun during a solar eclipse (Otero), real time footage of the sun’s path reflected on a telescope lens (Wiedemann) and light reflecting on water (Douglas). These images were projected onto the walls of the Temescal Arts Center while Duncan performed, spontaneously creating a “quadraphonic, sonic response” to the video images using tuning forks, a harmonica and four loop stations (each connected to one of four speakers).
In the beginning, Duncan primarily used tuning forks. Their ringing, vibrating sounds synchronized with flickering sunlight in Otero and Douglas’ works and echoed the more subtle radiating and dematerializing aspects of Duncan and Wiedemann’s pieces. While at first, the sounds simply heightened awareness of the visual aspects of light captured in the video works, as the looping vibrational sounds from the tuning forks began to accumulate, they came to express another dimension of light – an aural, vibrational quality.
In a second phase of Duncan’s performance when he brought in the harmonica, the tonal sounds seemed to depart temporarily from the video images, becoming more musical and less interpretive as they accumulated. There was a journey away from the images and even out of the space and times when image and sound departed and converged, departed and converged again. Yet, throughout this, the fullness of the sounds continued to express an “aspect of light,” a similar quality of fullness.
Others in the audience no doubt took a variety of journeys during this engaging, immersive performance. As Duncan states, his approach “is based on the idea that simple gestures repeated and layered over time will lead to unintended and/or transcendent sounds.” Such moments are highly subjective, but the layering of sounds and images in Aspects of Light opened up a lot of possibilities.
Shapeshifters Cinema is a monthly series featuring experimental filmmakers and video artists presenting moving image work live with accompaniment from musicians and sound artists. Performances take place on the second Sunday of every month at the Temescal Arts Center. The series, run by Gilbert Guerrero and Kathleen Quillian, just received an Alternative Exposure Grant.
The next performance on Sunday December 8, 2013, will feature work by Vancouver-based artist Alex MacKenzie.
For more information visit Shapeshifters Cinema, Oakland.
– Contributed by Suzanne L’Heureux