As the performance web site and calendar for the gallery is slowly coming together, I thought for my first blog post I’d give a quick overview of some of the different series and events we’ll be producing this fall.

The Open Secret: Curated by Brian Wallace and Joni Murphy, this series delves into how artists invest themselves in local community while still keeping an eye to the internet and the various new communities cyber-space affords. This series will be a mish-mash of artist talks, performances, and film screenings from those local and distant that’ll be wrapped up into a sassy publication.

Now It’s Dark: Local improvisor/art-music/nice hair dude Marc Riordan curates a series of experimental films with improvised scores other local improvisors. Marc was at the space yesterday telling me and Abby about one of the movies he’ll be showing: Peanut-butter and Robin the Boy-Wonder is all I’m gonna say. David Moré-who’s show of sound portraits is up at the moment-will be lending his singing saw to the movies, and Jeff Kimmel, Jason Roebke, and Brian Labycz will be around too.

Quiet Circle:More improvisation, but rather than facing a screen, the musicians will be arranged throughout the gallery–the better to make subtle noises that investigate spatiality and notions of collaboration at a distance, my dear. Everything I’ve ever seen curator Noé Cuéllar do is smart (pressed suit rather than SAT) and luscious (folds of thick corduroy rather than lip gloss): ten people playing politely in a circle isn’t just an idea he had, it’s his thing.

As Yet Untitled Experimental Movie Night:Co-curator Jesse McClean has been in Venice for the film fest for the last few days, so we’re still working out the title for this one, but it’s gonna be a doozy: three nights of film that investigate the connections between director and audience. 20 minute Van Halen solos? Middle school kids cussing? The entire cast of Hello Dolly recording the entire Harry Smith folk archive set under heavy sedation? One of these things will not be apart of this series. Co-curated with Eric Fleischauer.

As Yet Untitled Established Authors talking to Younger Authors:I really want to call this night Crosstalk! or At the Table! or Around the Coyote! (…) to give it the Sunday morning TV zazz I think it deserves. This night is being curated by Beth Sampson, who’s working on the new School of the Art Institute journal Dear Navigator, and she’s got poets coming out of her ears/flying in from all over, all of whom I can’t talk about yet. Why am I doing so? Because poetry is a passive-aggressive media.

The Parlor also begins tonight with Gina Frangello and continues through December: Atomix regular Adam Levin will be up in October reading from his new book from McSweeney’s and urban-running-womyn Lindsay Hunter reads sideways from her new featherproof book in November.

An interview with David Moré

September 7, 2010

Hello! this is my first blog post as the Gallery Director at Green Lantern. We’re really excited about our opening this Saturday September 11 from 7-10 pm for David Moré’s show Normal Bias. For each exhibition we’re putting together a publication that will include things like interviews, essays, and documentation of artists’ projects. Here’s our interview with David, the rest of the publication will be available for download from the website starting Saturday. See you this weekend at our new location, 2542 W. Chicago Ave. And we’ll have open hours next week from Tuesday through Saturday 12-6 pm. Yea, we’re opening! -Abby

A conversation between David Moré, Caroline Picard and Abigail Satinsky.

AS: So let’s start by talking about when you began making instruments.

DM: Probably six or seven years ago?

AS: You were drawing before that right?

DM: Yeah. I think I kind of I came to a realization that “I’m drawing or painting just so I can hang out in my studio and listen to records. That’s real dumb.” I’ve also had this kind of uncomfortable relationship, as far as being a cultural producer, I would go to more shows and buy more records than I did books or go to art galleries. And I actually had an instructor who brought that up and said something like, “You kids buy so many CDs, when was the last time you bought a really good book about artists?” And I think it’s a pretty common thing. But yeah, I’m not a musician. Even though it seems like I should maybe try to be, it seems like the format of being in a band and having this relationship where there’s an audience and you’re presenting your music and asking for peoples’ time is not a natural thing for me. And I’ve played instruments before, so I don’t think it’s a patience issue of whether I should just sit down and learn to play the cello.

CP: Do you think it’s weird to think of these homemade instruments as being your medium? It seems like there is a difference between an artist that works with painting and pens and charcoal versus a musician. But then it also seems like you’re using these acoustic tools as a traditional artist would pens or charcoal.

DM: Yeah that’s nice because I occupy a difficult in-between place. You can’t really play a song on a spring and a piece of wood, but you can produce this other kind of thing and that’s what led to this project [sound portraits]. Thinking “Hey I should find a context for these things I do.” You can’t do like a Beethoven cover record on styrofoam.

CP: Can you talk about how you found or came upon this context of making sound portraits in the gallery?

DM: Well it originated from when Temporary Services did the Fair at UIC’s Gallery 400 and I got asked to do something. And so the fair was mostly people presenting publications or other things they had made or that were easily salable. And so I thought, “Fair, hmm, it’s called Fair. Maybe you can get your portrait done like you do at fairs, like a caricature. Cool, yeah! Audio portraits! Yeah that’s a great idea!” So I took this opportunity at Green Lantern to see if I could expand on it. And like you said, now I have more space to move around…

AS: How did you think it worked at Gallery 400?

DM: It was OK, it was fun. I think it worked alright because it was one day in a really cramped space. I definitely think that doing it at the Fair involved relating to an initiated audience. People knew they were going to an art fair. But here, [at The Green Lantern] I’ve been able to get people who are just passing by. And that’s some what interests me. The way I can relate to them, like “I do this kind of weird thing but what do y’all think, what is this music?”

AS: That’s interesting to me that you say the people at the fair would be the initiated and the people that would walk into the gallery aren’t. Because even though we are testing out ways to be something other than a totally traditional gallery space, for most people this is definitely a gallery. There are a bunch of objects on display that they’re going to look at and judge.

DM: But I don’t think this place is obviously a gallery yet and that’s the sense I get from people coming in like, “Wait, so what is this…?”

AS: Right, we’re still in a state of ambiguity…

DM: …and so it’s only a temporary gallery and you’re going to move in January..

CP: …the space right now is full of plants and furniture and curious tables with unusual homemade instruments…

[laughter]

DM: I also kind of like and hate when people ask what I’m doing. I don’t really know but I’m going to try it first and then try to figure out. That process can be pretty infuriating, but it’s also nice because ultimately I might learn something. It feels like an actual experiment.

AS: Well it’s an experiment but there’s also parameters. The participants know where to sit, how long it’s going to take, etc. Which actually, I feel, is really helpful in a lot of ways in terms of getting people to feel comfortable if they know what the parameters of the space they’re occupying because these instruments are such curiosities too.

CP: I agree. It’s interesting with this portraiture set up that people have so many expectations about what their portrait is going to look like. And then I think that there’s also this tendency to read into how somebody describes you as to whether or not they like you or they think you’re a good person or they think you’re attractive. And I think that by making this soundscape the result is already so abstract that it seems to cut a lot of that stuff out, or at least make it very transparent, you know, because you’re like “Whoa there was that weird squealing sound I wonder if it means that David thinks I’m depressed.” And then you’re like, “What am I doing? That’s idiotic. It’s just a sound. ”

[laughter]

AS: Yeah when I see people come in and sit in the chair, they feel special. It’s even true when I was sitting there, I thought, this is just for me. And it reminds me also of another portrait experience. When I was ten, I went to New Orleans with my family. I got my portrait drawn in the touristy part in town. I remember it didn’t look anything like me and I was so disappointed because I felt like I had just sat there for so long! Somehow I thought the portrait would explain something about me, like it would be the window into my soul or something. And then actually getting it and thinking, “Oh you didn’t get me at all!” That is so sad! I don’t even know what happened to the drawing itself, but I remember vividly the expectation of the portrait to really be me and then realizing that that fleeting encounter failed miserably.

DM: Yeah I have never sat for a portrait like that but I imagine that it would be like the expectation of a kind of truth about yourself which is, I mean, that’s nuts! But maybe it’s a mistake that I’ve entered into making people’s portraits using audio. But I’ve been working on it and actually trying to give it a shot and find some parameters and maybe there’s some way you can gauge like, wow you’ve actually got me! Some people sitting have said “Oh wow that’s actually pretty accurate! You were right on there.” And they’re joking a little bit but there is something there. The idea of someone sitting there making abstract noises and then someone else relating those to their life is actually a pretty wild idea.

CP: Can you talk more about your selection of sounds?

DM: One of my concerns is drawing attention to everyday sounds. I think that is a common theme that there’s all these interesting sounds going on around us and if we start paying attention to them, it can be a really fulfilling experience. I can also make the analogy of when I was drawing a still life or an object or a friend, it would really change your relationship to the person or to the object just because you’re so intensely looking at your subject. You can kind of get the same thing just by walking around with a tape recorder and anytime you click it on, you’re paying attention to everything that’s happening around you. I had a really sweet experience a couple of years ago. I was walking around in Havana with this guy, and during a power outage, I said I wanted to make a recording of a generator. When I switched the recorder on he was quiet and when I was done he said, “That was so amazing, as soon as you turned that thing on I just noticed all the amazing street sounds and generative sounds just from taking this walk in this darkened city.” Focusing on surrounding sounds can be a really rich experience.

I want there to be a lot of humor involved too. Yesterday for one of the portraits I took a cymbal and I was bowing it in the bathroom. It was really really loud but at least there was this spatial difference in the sound. Also, with a lot of the work I’m interested in doing, sound doesn’t have to come from two speakers, even though that’s the way a lot of people perceive it.

The only thing I guess I don’t know how it’s going to end. There is going to be a formal gallery opening and I am collecting all the portraits. They are definitely a gift, they are a gift for the person whose portrait I took.

But I am also recording them all digitally and I’m going to have an archive. So on a personal level a lot of the project is getting composition ideas because you have to improvise on the spot to see what these people sound like, right? The project is kind of like a big exercise for me.

CP: Does that mean that over the course of a day before you come into the studio, you think about different sort of compositional progressions?

DM: Well, I think the project potentially builds a more efficient process to describe what someone sounds like which sounds like a completely ridiculous idea. But it is kind of good to make your brain do this thing that doesn’t really make any sense. Just to see if it comes up with anything else, a solution to this ridiculous problem.

It has been interesting to think about the idea of space over the summer, particularly what it means to build or define it. We’ve been working it over in a number of ways–from the on-going and often Quixotic search for a permanent location, to the building of a website, and then too, the building of our on-line bookstore. In the midst of these buildings, we are, meantime, developing our rapport as a team. We meet once a week as a group to talk over our anticipated program, touch base on various issues we’re struggling with and offer updates. The website should come together with a beta version on August 25th and we’re hoping to launch it properly this September. Meantime the on-line store is supposed to go on-line this October. There will still be a period of working out the kinks also, Zach and I are pretty sure we’ll use featherproof and the Green Lantern Press as guinea pigs, load those books on the site and then see what kinds of problems arise that way, before asking for books from other presses. Since it looks like we won’t have a physical bookstore until the new year (at the earliest) we’ll have ample time to trouble shoot.

That said, there is all of this other energy in the gallery aspect of the space–we’ve pretty much squared away all of fall’s programming and it’s super exciting to know that something physical is going to manifest from that aspect of this summer’s work. Similarly, Devin has been working out the public programming/events–another interesting aspect about that issue is that, while we hope to one day have a separate performance space, this fall the gallery and the performance space are one and the same. Therefore we have to co-ordinate the physical demands of those respective projects. In other words, if a performance artist wanted to come in and do a splatter paint Galager watermellon fest, it would be impossible–because there will inevitibly be art up on the wall, or installations on the ground. It means that our fall events programming has to be fairly modest in its theatrical proportion. Thus we have a lot of readings lined up, some film screenings, a number of talks and some music events. Here too, I can’t help feeling like it’s going to help us in the long run–because I feel like we can test the waters, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then see if we can open up our venue for larger events.

It’s all so near–right around the corner. The last two weeks feel like there’s been a lull, a little–a kind of in-between time before which we’d planned everything we possibly could plan in advance. Now, preparations are starting in a new way, to get everything ready for the ever-nearer opening in September. It’s very exciting. My favorite thing, however–I ended up in a conversation last night about the Green Lantern in which a friend of mine asked about the longevity of the project. The Green Lantern has been operating in some form for about six years. However, this new stage of developement is totally new, totally different. I thought about the Marvel Green Lantern, and then it occured to me that actually what is starting up this fall, what has been incubating this summer, is a new generation of the project. What was originally setup in my house, and put together by one group of people, is now being established off-site, by an entirely new group of people. Further, there are new aims, new interests, and with those new individuals–Zach, Abby, Devin–each arm of the project has that much more weight behind it. Something I never could have accomplished before. Obviously there will be new issues to face, other areas of weakness or tension, but it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of a project that has enough flexibility to transform.