Among the visual artists producing work to the music of the Gabriel Alegría Afro-Peruvian Sextet at HARMONY IN PROCESS Saturday night at ShapeShifter Lab was Patti Maciesz, who sat center stage and made little illustrated tags for the audience in response to what she was hearing and seeing. This is the one she handed to me and that’s her on the white chair inking out another one. Her tags were just a piece of a bold and free-spirited event, one which caused me to contemplate just what the relationship is between an artist – whether musical, visual or literary – and his or her immediate surroundings, with its sounds, smells and sights, its inspirations and distractions
In the event, we saw as many as eight visual and two literary artists portray or react to what they were seeing and hearing (none seemed to respond by shutting out the stimuli). At the same time, the musicians – on cajón, trumpet, guitar and saxophone – improvised their way through the evening with the attention of their audience divided in ways they must not have been used to, and perhaps in turn responded to what they were seeing from the artists and writers (whose work was perusable during the intermission even if they might not have been observed in process). The setup also threw into relief the habit that audiences have at musical events (unlike, say at theatrical productions) of taking photographs of what they are seeing and hearing. It is as though everyone is trying to capture something of the ephemeral to take away with them, or to share later.
“HIP” was a sort of 2013 version of a ’60s “happening” (the “H” might just as well have stood for that as for “harmony”), in which a certain direction was set but the result was allowed to emerge as it would.
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