More Art is More Better

send + receive festival of sound [004]: Steve Heimbecker, Diane Landry and CinDy
October 16 – October 20, 2001

a response to the exhibition by Steve Bates

There are always challenges associated with hosting send + receive, although 2001 was particularly acute. Having just emerged from the chaos and turmoil of September 11 and its dramatic and far-reaching repercussions, send + receive

Much of the activity around last year’s festival was hosted by ace teetered on the edge of cancellation.artinc. and included, among others, Québécois artist Diane Landry. Landry’s sensitive, playful and poetic work was exhibited earlier in the month as part of Québéque ! New York. Held in New York City and featuring the work of numerous Québécois artists, this group exhibition was located in various galleries around what became known as Ground Zero. The piece Landry was originally scheduled to install during send + receive lay silent under a coating of dust, residue from the Trade Tower collapse.

Disappointment and further rescheduling resulted when a group of Austrian artists decided to canel their performance at aceartinc. Rather than face the possibility of being refused entry into the continent, the trio of Werner Dafeldecker (double bass, electronics), Franz Hautzinger (trumpet) and Dieb 13 (turntables) reluctantly decided to cancel their entire North American tour.

To further add to the threat of postponing the festival, two other Québécois artists were wondering about their ability to travel via North American airspace: Osama (Sam) Shalabi (guitar, electronics) and Alexandre St-onge (double bass, electronics).

After discussing the matter with Diane Landry and weighing the options, it was decided that she, in fact, would participate in the festival and install a different piece. In Landry’s words, “More art is more better.” This soon became the theme of send + receive [004].

Landry’s École d’aviation (flying school) is a collection of inhaling and exhaling umbrellas controlled by a computer. As these animated automatons unfold, air is drawn into a paper accordian bag at the base of the object. And as the handle of the umbrella retreats, the air is gently exhaled out of the bag and through a harmonica mouthpiece, which whistles slightly and determinedly. Each of the umbrellas blows a different note, and together they create a composition Landry programs specifically for each site.

But wait. Inhaling and exhaling? Isn’t breath associated with a living body, an animate, organic creature?

While it is Landry’s use of everyday, household objects that immediately warms people to her work, taken en mass these creatures appear to be living. If you close your eyes slightly, the room becomes a slow-motion world of bustling creatures reflecting the movements of their handlers while providing cover and protection.

Movement, light, shadow and sound all play a role in Landry’s École d’aviation and in her performance La Morue. Again using household objects, La Morue is a mix of the disorienting and the familiar. Placing teapots, colanders, ice skates, and toys on dual turntables backlit by halogen lights controlled by faders, Landry conducts a cacophonous mix of sound and light. While the projected objects take on huge proportions revolving in a whirling mix, the piece is at once quaint and poetic in its unsettling remix of the everyday.

The only sound from the performance comes from the objects and their amplified weight upon the labouring turntables. The resulting grind and scrape becomes hypnotic and produces a remarkable diversity of sounds as the weight of each object produces different tones.

Following Landry’s performance was the duo of Sam Shalabi and Alexandre St-Onge. These two musicians from Montreal created a universe of the microsound, the lowercase, the big sounds heard in quiet spaces.

Using minimal instrumentation, Shalabi and St-Onge crouched over their instruments for an hour, coaxing, scraping, dialling and plucking sounds from the double bass, guitar and electronics that lay in front of them. The stillness of the music filled the room with a textural blanket while evoking different awareness of scale – stomach that comes when standing on a huge, endless expanse of prairie or when peering into the eyepiece of a microscope.

More art is more better, indeed.

Steve Bates is a musician, audio artist, independent broadcaster and curator who lives in Winnipeg. Steve’s work in music has travelled from early punk rock experiments to his current use of computers and cheap electronics in performance and recording projects.