Sunday 14th November

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NeilI’m not sure if I will try and go into more detail on the events of Instal when I get home, maybe I will, but its hard for me to really get everything down into these blog posts from here, primarily because its all a little overwhelming- yesterday’s events went from half two in the afternoon through to midnight without a break, and just about every moment required high concentration levels to be able to grasp a good understanding of things. Sitting here in the hotel lobby the morning after, it just isn’t that easy to do much more than give an overview. Apologies for that, I am aware how frustrating this might be for those interested on the other side of the world…

If the theme of Friday’s events might have been to directly engage with the audience, so yesterday’s events all had a subtly different (and I must say very inspiring) intention. Several, if not all of the performances took the route of presenting carefully chosen “found” items in a very simple manner to the audience, who were then left to try and make sense of what they had seen/heard for themselves, so engaging the audience in a different way, leaving them to complete the performance for themselves. If this sounds just like what any concert might also do, perhaps the events that followed this process yesterday could be grouped together because they took things that already existed, and presented them in such a way that they generated strong responses from the audience members, and in particular, personal, internal, emotional responses.

So the conceptual writer Vanessa Place gave a performance of a work that clearly had a powerful impact on those in attendance. A practicing lawyer, she merely read from court notes that described in clinical legal-speak acts of sexual violence against prostitutes and children. Place described herself merely as an apparatus to convey a text to us, leaving us to make of the words as we will, on an individual basis. The performance had been preceded by a talk about an artist’s / audience’s complicity in what they opposed, so the scene had been set for a lot of internal processing of Place’s words. I found this performance, and the responses of many in the room during the open forum that followed to be thoroughly inspiring and thoughtful, not what I had expected but genuinely affecting. This theme of leaving the audience to provide meaning was extended into a screening of Ken Jacobs’ film The Perfect Film, in which unedited, unused TV footage made in the aftermath of Malcom X’s murder was presented in a similar, clinical manner without any additional information. Again we were left to take what we chose to take from the performance, and while the screening did not have the emotional impact of Place’s talk, it certainly built on the same internal contemplation.

Turntable performer Pascal Le Gall presented us with slowed down records in a pitch black room, a strangely uncomfortable performance that I am struggling to describe here. He did nothing complicated, but the connection between the sounds he presented and our perception of what they might originally have been (I think a piano / cello duo, a spoken word teach-yourself-a- foreign-language record and something unidentifiable) lead to a peculiar feeling of awkward nostalgia for me. Christoper DeLaurenti’s mix of field recordings and police tapes from the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle was also presented in pitch black, and in some form of surround sound, so greatly enhancing the feeling of “being there” This was another performance that held extreme emotional power and left me feeling moved and motivated in equal parts.

I also caught all three brief performances by Neil Davidson, an improvising guitarist that I have written about often and must declare a degree of professional involvement with, given that a solo disc will appear on Cathnor. He performed three sets, the middle of which was a great textural improvisation for acoustic guitar that mostly involved a Meehan-esque dowel rod rubbed onto assorted objects balanced precariously on the guitar, so creating a series of rough textures each ending abruptly as things fell out of place, either deliberately or not. The first and third sets followed a composition by Davidson. For the first of these he played a series of rapidly strummed single notes on his acoustic guitar, but he only did this when he “thought of a string quartet”. So much of the performance was silent, but apparently when a string quartet fell into Neil’s head he played. The third set saw the same composition performed, but with Neil switching to electric guitar and a drummer joined him. Talking and listening to others immediately after, these performances seemed to annoy a few people a great deal, but personally I found them at once both charming and amusing, and of course lead me to wonder how much sincerity there had actually been in their execution, or were we all being had?

The two “main” events of the evening, a performance of a work titled Speculative Solution by Florian Hecker, and a performance of a “timeless and infinite” composition by Catherine Christer Hennix were both very loud, based upon (actually quite oppositional) philosophical/mathematical suppositions that took quite a bit of concentration to come close to understanding, but, in my opinion resulted in little more than quite interesting electronic music. Hecker’s work was a full-on digital kaleidoscope of revolving, crashing, brain mangling sound that certainly had a process-based mathematical feel to it. Hennix’s music was created by piling sinewaves on top of each other using an intense set of mathematical thought that required a nine page essay (that I haven’t even attempted to read) to understand. The overall idea though was that there was no progression to the music, it remained one constant sound that would not sound different played in either direction, and apparently had no beginning or end. Listenign in the room to the deafening roar there did appear to be constant fluctuations in the sound, which was caused apparently by a combination of our brains hallucinating that we can hear more than is there, and flaws in the playback system. Hennix’ piece ended the evening, and while an interesting idea- the actual music, the experience to be had in the room, wasn’t particularly enthralling. In the case of both Hecker and Hennix’ works though, having followed their thinking as well as I could, having attended the discussion in which they and other outlined some of the theories involved, I found myself badly missing the emotional response I usually have to music. This felt thoroughly cold, clinical and scientific, despite the links to deeper philosophy. I also wonder, why did both have to be so loud?

Anyway, yesterday was inspiring and utterly exhausting. I imagine today will follow suit. It has been good to feel stretched, and to involve myself in things that perhaps I would normally have no interest in. Two thirds of the way through I have to say that Instal10 has felt very different, not your average music festival in any way at all, a catalyst for thinking, and hats off to Barry and co for achieving their goals on this front. Tonight the final three hour performance will come from a 60 strong workshop lead by Mattin and Ray Brassier that has (In Mattin’s words to me yesterday) “put an awful lot at stake” Looking forward to it.

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