In a culture bounded by a surge of technology seeking to optimize, polish and auto-correct, the antithetical aestheticization of analog flaws makes perfect sense: Instagram will make your digital photos look grainy for a nominal fee, vinyl fetishists can pay double for an unwieldy object that sounds marginally better. Glitch and dirty new media artists take this idea to a barbaric extreme, manually subverting, contorting and otherwise dismantling everyday objects to create something altogether new, but not necessarily pleasant.
Hero-worship of the glitchy misdeed was on display at the Opening Event of Tritriangle; a new performative media center run by artists Ryan T. Dunn and William Robertson. The space itself is living act of reclamation. Perched three floors above the Disney-fied Hipster Village of Wicker Park, this former location of sound art/performance venue Enemy is equal parts performance space, art studio and living quarters. It’s a remnant of a gritty “burnished age” when cheap rent and shitty lofts once attracted artists, the first pebble dropped of the unabated tide of gentrification.
At the Tritriangle opening event there were installations by artists, including Ivan Lozano’s “A HERMA (DEAD EYES OPENED)” (2011) and film screenings from Katie Torn and Eric Fleischauer. But the highlights of the evening were performances by glitch/dirty new media artists who in unique and original ways re-appropriated common technology to create effects that ranged from painful to unsettling to profound.
Exploration of the boundaries between endurance and pleasure began earnestly with a 15-minute sound collage by Vertonen. He used a record-less record player, looped field recordings of a child crying, and audio from Casey Anthony’s first vlog after being acquitted. The ensuing cacophony lacked melody, harmony or rhythm. Faced with the illusion of sound without structure the ear lurches and grinds, performing similar leaps to those of the eye faced with an abstract painting, seeking form and structure. Just as textual boundaries become landscape for the play of mark/remark, patterns rose from within Vertonen’s sound: crying child as jittery backbeat, tone arm pulling throbbing bass notes out of thin air, and Anthony’s tearful voice twisted into the semblance of weeping monster. There was no straight line to an experience of the sublime in Vertonen’s work. But after contending with the limits of audience endurance, the reward at journey’s end made the journey itself of value.
Jeff Kolar’s performance attacked the new media aesthetic via an appropriation of hatefully twee greeting cards that play music when opened. He plugged their audio chips into a mixer and through physical compression and digital manipulation played them like a miniature orchestra. Most striking was the apparent willingness or desire of the card to be performed. The simple chips, when appropriately stroked, seemed to cry out as if bursting with pent up sonic anger. Instead of coaxing out the music, Kolar seemed more like a lion tamer struggling to keep them under control. The ensuing tunes were alternately funny, overpowering, and beautiful.
As Jon Satrom, the evening’s closing act, set up his Prepared Desktop a moment of technical difficulty provided comedic relief. As Satrom fiddled with the plugs connecting his laptop a piercing squeal emitted from the A/V system. A sarcastic round of applause ricocheted around the room as someone called out, “Now THAT is glitch.” To which Satrom replied: “No, that was literally white noise.”
Satrom’s performance (once up and running) began with the visual of his laptop screen projected against a screen, zoomed in and slightly out of focus. You could vaguely follow Satrom’s progress as he opened and ran a variety of programs that caused a slow-building swell of sound to fill the room – part mechanical whirring, part sonorous and elegiac ambient trance.
During the 15 minute performance that followed the screen devolved into pixelated shapes and unfocused waves of light. Simultaneously the sound grew deeper, richer, louder, building toward a feverish pitch. A sense of unease began to settle in as the crescendo neared: “Can it get louder? Wilder? Can I handle it when it does?” Suddenly the concern that space and time might split open and the whole affair would blink out of existence felt almost real. Finally Satrom hit a single button and the whole thing went blank. He muttered a quiet “thank you,” which was lost in a wave of applause.
All images by Ryan T Dunn, courtesy of Tritriangle
TriTiangle is located at 1550 N Milwaukee Ave Fl 3. tritriangle.net