Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sara Schneckloth & Patrick Nugent at Toro y Moi

My husband and I drove up to Columbia to see Toro y Moi play. Since it was part of the Indie Grits Film Festival there was an accompanying video piece by Sara Schneckloth and Patrick Nugent projected on the wall while Toro y Moi performed. Schneckloth, who teaches drawing, had created a huge line drawing that was stapled to the wall, while Nugent had created a video that, when projected onto the drawing (and was painstakingly calibrated), appeared to make the drawing come to life in an animation that interacted with the music. Nugent said they were only about 20% done with the project and were showing "all they had ready." He already had something crazy like 19 layers of film (sort of like digital film overlays that you put together like a puzzle in an editing program). If this is only 20% I'd love to see the finished product, because what they had was gorgeous. I stupidly took no photos of it, but Schneckloth has some frames from the video/drawing up on her website, from what I take to be an earlier showing of the piece. Schneckloth described the process and it sounded like Nugent asked her to create the drawing, then she handed it off to him and he used it as a literal framework for the video. The finished piece had a trippy, organic feeling reminiscent of cellular biology, intestines and 90s grunge music videos.

The only other time I've seen a video projected onto a concrete surface that was a part of the video, was a short film by David Lynch. He projected what must have been an actual celluloid film onto a white sculpted surface with three tortured looking faces affixed to it. The content of the film was animations that involved the faces. The animated film was always changing while the faces, of course, were static.

Still, this piece was very different from Lynch's film. I associate Schneckloth's drawing style with an overarching movement in contemporary art of fetishizing the act of drawing. I see it in every indie film that has hand-drawn block letters in the credits, and in artwork that pushes doodling and amateur drawing beyond the limits of notebook pages and into galleries. I see Schneckloth's particular style as an homage to mark-making, a glorification of drawing for drawing's sake. Within the context of an increasingly digital world and an artworld that has come to accept simpler visual expression, a labor-intensive abstract drawing like Schneckloth's seems to flout modern design conventions in favor of engaging manually in the act of creating.

So I was surprised that this hand-done piece was used to create a digital video installation. As far as digital video editing goes, this seems as hands-on as possible, though the two media still seem at odds even as they flawlessly coordinate. It is certainly a technical stunt that introduces and suggests new uses of technology and I was duly impressed. But it is also an example of the digital side of this duo bending over backward to conform to the old-fashioned analog drawing.

The band, Toro y Moi, is also a digital/old-fashioned mix. They use Ableton Live software, which is a computer program for mixing sound and creating digital music that can be manipulated live or saved and replayed. My husband, who uses the software, thought they'd be using laptops and digitally manipulating the music more during the performance. Though they did use it some the performance was mostly live players on guitars and keyboards. The singers sometimes mimicked echo effects in real-time by repeating the end of words, and lots of other elements of the music were informed by digital alteration.

I had a great time and when we got back home the next day I promptly got sick. I guess sleep deprivation + beer +hipster club germs + devouring pizza with my hipstery germy hands = disease.

No comments: