Emily Harvey Foundation

NSA-USA: Sound as Prophecy
Installation/performance by Warren Neidich

Curated by Octavio Zaya

Fri, Nov. 15, 6:30 pm to 8 pm
Sat, Nov. 16, 6:30 pm to 8 pm

Collaborative Performers: Cristian Amigo, Joshua Carro, Michael Day, Gisburg, Rosemarie Hertlein, James Ilgenfritz, Dafna Naphtali, Brian McCorkle, Esther Neff, Kevin Norton, Fahad Siadat, Andrea Young

"Music is prophecy. Its styles and economic organization are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code. It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible, that will impose itself and regulate the order of things; it is not only the image of things, but the transcending of the everyday, the herald of the future." (1)

NSA-USA: Sound as Prophecy is an installation and performance work that takes as its point of departure the recent scandal arising from the National Security Agency's widespread spying on private citizens. It is part of a larger project, entitled Scoring the Archive, in which images sampled from other existing archives are transferred to musical score paper to become "graphic scores," which are then performed by musicians well- versed in experimental music. These scores emancipate the musical staff and the performer from the logics of notation and institutional meanings, releasing new possibilities of sound that go beyond conventional notions of music. An earlier work entitled, ‘How do you translate a text that is not a text? How do you perform a score that is not a score?' premiered at Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, where twenty-seven musicians performed a score created from found newspaper images and texts concerned with the Egyptian Spring. In the present work, long strands of transparent adhesive tape, into which eight musical staffs have been embedded, are used instead. Images, sampled from multiple news stream websites, in which the various positions of the controversy of the NSA have been elaborated, were first downloaded and then transferred to this invisible adhesive matrix. Like the scores of Morton Feldman and Karlheinz Stockhausen, these scores are closer to drawings, and there is no desire to mimic the features of true musical scores. Instead, each rendered tablature attempts to prompt and encourage the singular and individual responses of each artist to produce a personal recital, one that, in the end, instigates catastrophes and epistemological crises, which then function as metaphors for the political crisis of democracy itself. At times, multiple musicians wandering through the work create a collective elaboration.

The form of installation as a complex manifold filling the gallery space speaks to the immaterial and distributed space-time relations coded by the Internet and essential for new forms of precarious labor. This denunciation is reiterated in the fragmented notations of musical scripting. The ensuing subjective reinterpretations of the events of the NSA scandal as improvisation sets up an oppositional reverberation running contrary to the interpretations enunciated by mainstream media. These are sound plateaus, as opposed to musical ones, which are more concerned with scripting and simultaneity of affects, and which induce passivity in performer and listener alike. Thus the performance encounter to be elaborated is transformed into an active participatory event. As John Cage stated many years ago, "Most people think that when they hear a piece of music, they're not doing anything but that something is done to them. Now this is not true, and we must arrange our music, we must arrange our art, we must arrange everything, I believe, so that people realize that they themselves are doing it, and not that something is being done to them." (2) Accordingly, NSA-USA: Sound as Prophecy addresses the power of artists to create interpretations alternative to normalized and scripted historical events, through alternative methods that will help shape the future.

1. Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, p 92
2. Cage quoted in Experimental Music; Cage and Beyond, Michael Nyman, p 24.

Warren Neidich is an interdisciplinary artist whose socially engaged practice explores the interfaces between super objects that capture the mind's attention in dynamic interactive ways as a means to investigate the new conditions of cognitive labor in the information economy. Recent awards include the The Fulbright Specialist Program Fellowship, University of Cairo, 2013, The Murray and Vickie Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artist and Scholar Award, Pitzer College, 2012, The Fulbright Specialist Program Fellowship, Fine Arts Category, Faculty of Fine Arts – University Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, Macedonia, 2011 and the Vilem Flusser Theory Award, Transmediale, Berlin, 2010. Selected exhibitions include The Whitney Museum of Art, New York City, P.S.1, MOMA, Long Island City, Ludwig Museum, Koln, The ICA London, The Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C, The Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the MAK, Vienna.

Octavio Zaya is an art curator, editor and writer born in Las Palmas (Canary Islands), and living in the USA since 1978. He is Director of Atlántica, Journal of Art and Thought, a bilingual quarterly published by Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (Las Palmas, Spain). He is a member of the Advisory Board of Performa (New York) and a contributor to Art - Agenda/e-flux (New York), ART iT (Tokyo) and Arte al Día International (Miami). He was one of the curators of Documenta11 (Kassel, 1998-2002), and also a curator at the 1st and 2nd Johannesburg Biennials (1995 and 1997). He has organized more than 30 exhibitions for museums and institutions worldwide, and published over twenty books on contemporary and young artists. He is the Curator of the Spanish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial (2013). He is currently organizing a large exhibition on the "installation works" of Luis Camnitzer.

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