Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Mattin is ending his NYC residency, heading off soon to Sweden. His final show here was the tail end of an 11-stop tour with Tim Goldie (known as " ", for now), performing under the name, Deflag Haemorrage/Haien Kontra. As one could easily anticipate, Mattin wasn't about to let his audience off easy.
[The evening began with a set of songs by Pink Reason, the nom de guerre of Kevin de Broux, playing acoustic guitar--well mixed by Mattin over Issue Project Room's multiple speakers--and singing. The guitar was quite good, a kind of Fahey aspect in that what you first thought was one simple, if attractive, repeated sequence turned out to have two or three hidden layers, often quite beautiful. The singing itself was ok, not outstanding, the lyrics trite to the point I was wondering if they were intentionally so. I decided not.]
Speaking with Mattin prior to the set, I asked about the previous night's show in Philly at the Rotunda. He was annoyed about the seating arrangement there--basically, that there were seats. This inhibited what they would have liked to do, vis a vis audience terrorism. So, it came as no surprise when the 25 spectators (I use the term loosely) were told to fold up their chairs and assume an erect position. Mattin and Goldie had set up computers on pedestals, facing each other at a distance of about 15 feet, Goldie's having a mirrored top. Mattin then ventured into the sparse crowd and pushed six or seven people, one by one, so that they were positioned more or less between the pcs (I successfully dodged this maneuver). A high, buzzing, whistling tone emerged, flitting merrily amongst the overhead speakers.
Goldie (I'll refrain from calling him " " for this report, though he made frequent use of fingered quotation marks throughout the set) then emerged from near the entrance, a camouflage jacket pulled up over his head, wearing some kind of black mask and thrusting his arms straightforward, zombie-style, careening through the assembled gathering, muttering, yelling and generally writhing as though undergoing torture, presumably via the sound system. OK. I'm sorry, but this is just silly. Nothing shocking, nothing scary, nothing that shifts one's perspective, awakens latent sensibilities. All you can do is smirk, and feel a bit dopey for doing so, but what are the options? If that's the point (as with a good bit of the rest of the evening), it's easily enough achieved. Yes, you feel self-conscious as an audience member. Conceivably you might want to join in; some did, as I'll mention. But, for this observer, it's akin to being asked to sing along in some awful Kumbaya situation; the feeling of embarrassment is similar, more in the sense that, out of courtesy, you don't want to scowl in the person's face and leave.
Interspersed among activities such as these, there was a healthy chunk of raw music/noise and, though I feel a bit silly for saying so given the context, it was excellent: brutal while retaining subtlety, finely textured and with enough subsonics to set my jeans a-flutter. But it seemed almost beside the point.
Mattin took a mic at one juncture, walking about, allowing the wire to wrap around audience members and mic stands, causing one of the latter, extended to about ten feet tall, to fall on a trajectory that had my right eye as a target before my softball reflexes kicked in and stopped it. Loy Fankbonner, to his credit, provoked right back, plopping on a chair right next to Mattin, who now brusquely pushed him off it then engaged in a physical shoving match, one vs. three, against our friends Anne, Billy and Richard; he lost. All the while, Goldie continued to lurch around the space, moan, sing, crawl, whatever; not intriguing.
When Mattin returned to his computer, Loy continued to agitate, bringing a cell-cam right up to Mattin's face, shining it's bright light. He'd later ask Anne to get on a nearby bicycle and ride through the proceedings, which she valiantly did. Loy got into things, I imagine, in a manner that the pair was hoping would be a general reaction. Well, no. One would have to, at the very least, feel somehow compelled to do so, not to have it thrust upon one, though presumably Mattin thinks such actions are necessary to shock us out of our complacency, our voyeurism, our spectacle-craving. One obvious answer is, don't perform then. There's a bit too much having it both ways otherwise.
Then again, sometimes a gambit works. Mattin eventually crouched, looking into the back of Goldie's pc, where he observed and commented on audience activity. "Richard is laughing. Loy is getting a beer. Brian is hiding" In my defense, I was merely seeking a wall against which to lean so my back wouldn't kill me, at the same time providing somewhat more cover from the various thrown objects with eyeball-piercing potential, which included a violin bow. This worked, in a way, the self-consciousness it provoked seeming, to me, less silly, more capable of providing some self-reflection.
They took things out with some serious noise, quite good. Even if, in context, it had the sense of a bone tossed to the crowd for putting up with things.
The above written in one shot, not really thinking it through, doubtless omitting much. Glad I went as it at least inspired some thoughts. I don't think Mattin is near solving his quandary yet and wish him luck with it, quixotic though the quest may be. As long as he insists on vending his wares in performance spaces, there will be this rub. Better, perhaps, to just venture into the public space and see what happens, if anyone cares, allowing those who do to set their own parameters.