And then we were artists again

•April 28, 2017 • Comments Off on And then we were artists again

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So in spite of my regular complaining, I’d still like to think of this as more of a website as opposed to a blog or live journal, etcetc. Does live journal even still exist? I remember it being a thing when I was a senior in college 13 years ago, so probably not, but either way. This is a website. About me. And the stuff I build. And the art I make. And how it all interrelates. Today we talk about art.

First up: Orden Natural. After a year of planning and building, Pau and I finally installed a new show at Rhizome in Takoma Park – it’ll be up until May 28 and here’s the statement for anyone who’s interested:

Natural Order is the first solo exhibition by Costa Rican / Mexican artist Paulina Velázquez Solís in Washington DC. The show is a view on what comes to be, arranges itself and finds new ways to connect and communicate. This exhibition is the result of taking notes and cues from personal experiences and ongoing curiosity into the biological world – which converge into variations, working with different media such as drawings, sound installation and sculpture.

Some artworks arose from collecting experiences of the human-mammal-body, particularly in the changes that take place during pregnancy, postpartum and the reproductive process in general.  In other works, routine and the pass of time are represented through time-shaped soap and the diary like recording of fingerprints that fail to be consistent.  Shifting the view into a microscopic perspective, a sound installation made in collaboration with sound artist Travis Johns, creates a habitable net of cell-like units that respond to their environment in a sonic inspired synapsis.

Second is all about video and my place in the general hierarchy of faculty life. So the college I teach at just turned 80 – and as part of the celebration, they decided to have a faculty art show to showcase the works or artists and scientists alike. And for the most part the show was extremely well put together – featuring documentation from research, snippets of private practices, hidden talents and passions from senior faculty… and me. Considering the call came up when I was working on Orden Natural, my first question was if they were accepting sculpture – with the answer being, nope, not so much. I then showed my portfolio and the Bioprinting piece stuck out the most… but it had to be framed. Therein lied a slight problem – since the piece was conceived to be rendered on computer and printed on a standard computer printer, finding a decent, stock frame for letter-size paper was nigh-impossible – even with 4 art supply stores within 5 blocks of my office. Lots of cheap, plastic certificate holders but nothing hangable. Not wanting to cut the prints, I opted to do something else. Seeing as I was (and currently still am) teaching video art, I decided to cobble something off of my hard drive, pulling from digital prints, an old video mashup I made 13 years ago and some synth jams. Altogether, the render time was about 13 hours – arguably the longest I’ve had since my video computer was a Bondi blue G3 tower. Yikes. Of course ling render times does not a video art make. But in this case it actually looked pretty cool.

So there I went, tv + dvd player in hand to install this piece – which was met with restrained confusion – was it my research? Was it mountable? Could it fit in a frame? Was it titled “documentation of research from…” Nope to none of that. On my end, I feel like I didn’t quite get the memo on what “faculty” art actually is. I mean, I know my institution isn’t as distinguished as the art institute across the street, but we do have an art department. If anything, let’s chalk this up to an awkward transition from me as an artist in the field to one in the tower, but still – strange. Maybe I have some growing up to do. Or I’m just at the wrong school. Somehow, some way, I’ll work this thing out. In the meantime, here’s some moving pictures for you.

 

Shoot-outs, Prints and Multiples

•April 25, 2017 • Comments Off on Shoot-outs, Prints and Multiples

So for some reason I almost began this missive with “Hello me, meet the real me” – and then I re-listened to said song by the deth of mega’s and realized that was in fact a terrible way to begin. So instead, I’ve wasted three lines telling you how I wasn’t going to do that. Because such is the circuitous method of my speaking. That said, I’m fresh back from a fairly killer class after a fairly tumultuous week that involved a bunch of time on a ladder, two art openings, some diplomatic stuff (as in diplomats, not being diplomatic), a trip to the emergency room and that one day I slept in until almost 9… for the first time since like 2007 – not including that once day in 2011 when we were out until 5 am.

Anyways. Have to say, I’m really enjoying the professor life, especially with regard to the general feeling of fulfillment it brings – admittedly, it took a second to get my sea-legs i the classroom – especially since my first class is a 2.5 hour long 200 level, but at this point, I’m sad that there’s only two more weeks left. Here’s hoping I can entice some institution into bringing me aboard as full-time faculty. Somehow, some way, some day. Truth be told, I think I enjoy it even more than building – with the added incentive of less direct exposure to toxic chemicals.

Gushing notwithstanding, here’s whats up: a quick report on two things Vaux outside of the usual spheres and spectrums.

Thing 1: My good friends at sPLeeNcoFFiN just put out a tape of my stuff – mainly some of my first Baltimore-era synth improvisations. I think I maybe had like 5 modules and a Dark Energy a this point, so it’s fairly sparse compared to my usual walls of sound – to which my dear friend and electronics mentor John Talbert’s mentioned that I should see if the current administration would be interested in playing my music at the border as a cost-effective alternative to an actual wall – my response being that you’d be surprised how heavy Mexico is into noise music. But yeah, sparse. But kind of cool in a 1960’s mono-space boogie kind of way. Celebratory even. I think in some instances, I was trying to go a little too Subotnick, but hey, gotta start somewhere – why not the beginning? Anyways, here’s the link in form of an embedded photo that sends you to their page of wonders. 17522736_10155302070311042_3448981453734306034_n-2

I should mention that I seem to be playing under the name of True French these days. Not that my solo project needs a new name, but considering I’m using all-analog gear while vsls was all about a laptop, i figure I can differentiate for a while a reconcile later. Not to mention that a Salvadorian street gang has appropriated “vsls” as one of their things, and while I technically have the trademark, I doubt any of my colleagues a the law school would want to take up the argument with a potential legal wing of their aforementioned operation. So it goes. As long as some euro-supremacist group doesn’t take “True French,” I think I should be ok for a second. Speaking of, the name is in reference to my bike – a true French Motobecane from the ’70’s. With the exception of an obscure bottom bracket that needs the occasional alignment, dear lord that thing is fast.

Thing 2: pedals. Yeah, I still make those. Maybe not as prolifically as other times, but it has been known to happen when not wrangling 400 feet of wire and photoresistors into a gallery setting. More on that later. In the meantime, I sent a God Standard to LA to participate in a fuzz shootout. Here’s how we did:

So yeah, that’s what’s up. More on the art world in a second. Crashing hard at the moment. 8 hours at the day-gig, 2.5 hours teaching, 4 miles on the bike, no sleep for most of the weekend and a good 12 hours on a ladder between Thurs and Sun – on top of home and family, music, friendship and being woken by the cat at least twice a night. I’ve never been so exhausted, but somehow it all feels good. I sleep now. More in a ticky-boo.

Two guys with beards and an imaginary webpage

•April 1, 2017 • Comments Off on Two guys with beards and an imaginary webpage

A report and some videos. So for those who read these things for things other than my quasi-paranoid concerns on the deconstruction of certain administrative state, you’ll know that I’m a newly-minted occasional member of faculty of the same institution that I’ve been an administrator at since moving back to this country. And with that, there’s been a slight learning curve – for instance, spring break is a time for grading papers, lesson planning and recovery – not working full-time in the administrative position, grading papers and booking a small east-coast tour with esteemed colleagues. But, as one would figure, that’s what I did and while there’s largely been no regrets with said decision, I am indeed quite tired. However, productivity stops for no one, so I write. With discipline and proper planning, we shall succeed and excel.

Case in point, today’s schedule:

  • 6 AM: Wake up, finish oscillator for art show
  • 7 AM: Make coffee
  • 8 AM: Drill box for custom pedal
  • 9 AM: Materials order for art show and custom orders
  • 10 AM: Paint one box, glue fur to another one
  • 11 AM: Pancakes!
  • 12 PM: Update website (right now)
  • 1 PM: Shower
  • 2 PM: Xime nap – read musicology text
  • 3 PM: Pack art in car, leave for DC
  • 4 PM: Deliver artwork to gallery
  • 5 PM: Return to Baltimore
  • 6 PM: Dinner
  • 7 PM: Playtime – bathtime – bedtime
  • 9 PM: Work on paper for conference
  • 10 PM: Record/mix improvisations on electronics
  • 11 PM: Read, pass out with head in musicology text

And so on. Tomorrow I write more, prepare for Monday’s class and do laundry. But previously, I was on tour with f.org, the duo I play in with Alex Catona that straddles the working definitions of free improvisation and harsh noise. I personally think we’re onto something – it’s just a matter of outlet. More on that later. At the moment, you’ll have to suffice with some videos of us doing our things in New York, Washington DC and Baltimore. They’re pretty good. And they form the basis of the sonic material for a new and forthcoming record entitled “No Fuhrer” – aptly named in the typical revolutionary fashion and in response to attempting to play free music at a time when so many other freedoms are being clamped down. Compared to our previous recordings, things get dark quick. Can music be both free and non-idiomatic as well as political? Can any music be non-political? Hard to say these days. For those who who agree, here’s a quick statement to the assuring manifesto that the powers that be can try as they might, we will fight them wherever we can with whatever tools we have at our disposal. For those who don’t, here’s some videos of two guys with beards playing cello and synthesizer who named themselves after a website that they personally cannot afford to own. More on the way, but keeping to the schedule, I believe the shower is calling.

In solidarity,

t.

 

Springtime Post-Industrial

•March 21, 2017 • Comments Off on Springtime Post-Industrial

As it seems the world of busy never abates, another proclamation for the masses. Namely, being that it’s the first day of spring, three new releases have dropped on the experiment and potentially focal pivot of existence otherwise known as VF Industrial. Rounding out this season we have:

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José Duarte – CR Dístopia. Imagine a future where the insistence on preserving the pristine aspects of eco-tourism and the perceived image of a globalized paradise has turned ugly and anyone not willing to support the myth disappears into the machinations of systemic rehabilitation. In other words, the sounds of the neopostapocalyptic post-colonialism direct from the source – as told via processed field recordings, VF synths and Pure Data. Click the picture, take a listen.

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Headboggle – Music for PC. Bay Area synth wizard and Buchla aficionado Derek G presents an extended mix of acoustic piano music for your entertainment and general  befuddlement. Recorded on a series of pianos across San Francisco, this mix was originally made to accompany films by visual artist Paul Clipson, and serves as the only current archive of their collaboration – in glorious stereophonic sound.

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Finally, we have Mare Island, by [ruidobello]. For this record, sound artist Jorge Bachmann presents a series of haunting mixes that combine haunting synthesizers with field recordings conducted at an abandoned navy shipyard located 20 or so miles north of San Francisco. For your safety, listen to this in the company of at least one friend and have a couple blankets available to take the chill off.

And there we have it. More on the way, including a small bit of tourism I’m undertaking in the ned few days – midterms are almost finished grading and a slew or emails need to go out by the ned of the week. I should probably continue hammering away at this paper I’m scheduled to present at Columbia University in a few weeks, there’s wiring to be done and recordings to be made. Ah yes, and episodes of a certain zombie-themed tv show to be watched – probably the hardest thing on the list to do. Seriously, it’s like we’re watching it in 7 minute chunks as we try to get our tv-ma viewing in while the little one’s asleep. The problem is that being a light sleeper, even the slightest zombie sound is prone to waking her. Adult life – so it goes.

Post-Ohio Decompression

•March 11, 2017 • Comments Off on Post-Ohio Decompression

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Hey gang,

It’s Saturday morning and I have a second to provide an update on what’s happening in our neck of the woods, both with regard to personal, professional and artistic. We were all in Ohio last week for the retirement party of a professor from undergrad and a departmental reunion – had a wonderful time, but between Pau and I we also performed three recitals and put up a preview of a couple new instruments on top of putting 800 miles on the car round trip. This week was all about recovery. At least I had a quiz and an open lab scheduled for my class this week – no idea how I’d be able to lecture on top of all that. Supposedly I have a midterm due next week, but there’s already talk of canceling class due to snow – possibly the first actual storm in Charm City all year. So it goes.

Outside of that, it’s a total waiting game at the moment as the applications I submitted at the end of last year are churning through the pipes. Hopefully I’ll hear something soon and make the necessary preparations when it comes time to pull the trigger. In a few weeks, Alex will be flying up for a few shows and then Pau has a solo show at Rhizome that we’re frantically preparing for. Tomorrow I’ll be holed away writing a paper about hydrography for a conference in NY – so yeah, lull and frantic, simultaneously and interchangeably.

Of note – in the fundraising/electronics dept, we’ve dropped the price on the 24 to move out the final stock – it’s been a great pedal, but juggling 5 production models gets tricky and the thought is that it’s time to streamline the operation and make some new stuff. Just saying. I’d probably be more than willing to build one custom if you asked nicely, but for now this is what we have.

Also – hey, here’s a recording from my set in DC the other week. Still waiting for the recordings from Ohio – will post them as soon as they’re up.

Digital White, Revisited

•February 25, 2017 • Comments Off on Digital White, Revisited

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Ok, so the past two posts were a little dark – but eh, dark times and all that. This one, not so much. Just a quick update on the Digital White project that I started a while back – you know the one where I feed a bunch of data to the wrong program and watch it barf out images? Admittedly not the most graceful way of describing my process, but it’s basically what I’m doing in this case. In the first installation, which produced 125 5×5″ prints, I was basically throwing whatever sounds I had into the software and seeing what became of it. For this batch, things are a little more curated. For instance, now all sounds are the result of instruments I built myself. Also up is the fact that this is only part one of the project – as it so happens, my day job has at least two laser cutters floating around. Provided I can make a deal or two with their respective departmental curators, the next step in this project is to have these prints, comprised entirely from raw audio data of synthesizer improvisations, to be laser-etched onto various materials and then re-scanned back into the digital realm – along with whatever imperfections picked up along the way. Think of it as filtering and processing by way of physical medium. Not to mention that I’d rather own a laser-etched art piece that I can hand on the wall that actually contains the embedded data needed to create a piece of music as opposed to sealed 180 gram vinyl and a download code. But that’s just me. And as I repeatedly learn the longer I spend time outside of my bubble, apparently I’m different. Ever wonder about the true significance of your field of research? Teach an elective course – you’ll find your entire system of existence blown to smithereens by midterms. Speaking of, I should probably message my class about where the instructions for their midterm is on the CMS, upload some PowerPoints and hack together a quiz – all the while preparing for a show in DC tomorrow (decided on the laptop rig as opposed to the Sound System), a few days of festivities in Ohio and all the rest. Will be in touch. Apparently in the absence of social media this is now my outlet. A good thing? Maybe. We’ll see.

On Semi-Social Darkness

•February 19, 2017 • Comments Off on On Semi-Social Darkness

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All,

So for those that actually follow this stuff, you may have noted that a couple things have gone missing from the site over the past couple weeks – namely just about every mention of social media – i.e., the Twitter feed, the follow on Facebook button, the Instagram thing in the sidebar, etc. This is all intentional – we wish it wasn’t, but at this point we view it as somewhat of a necessary evil to help allow us to keep doing what we’re doing. Of course, the power of direct communication to like-minded individuals IS how we do things, but at least for the moment, the current channels are just a little-too obfuscated to allow us to consider doing things they way we’ve been doing. Allow me to elaborate.

So for those who know us, it’s no secret that we were involved in the experimental music and arts scene in the SF Bay Area prior to moving to Costa Rica and then back to the states to our current locale of Baltimore. During that time we were associated with several scenes, some of which were located in warehouses similar to the Ghost Ship in Oakland. Granted, they had different names and the ebb and flow of those spaces always provided a changing cast of characters, but in our case, the Ghost Ship fire killed several friends of ours – a tragedy in itself. And then things went from tragic to just plain weird.

As the story goes, the trolls that constitute the alt-right decided that we art folks needed to be saved from ourselves and started a “safety” campaign to infiltrate art spaces across the country, otherwise known as bastions of progressive, liberal thought and call in any infractions for whatever wicked reason they deemed relevant. I truly doubt that there was actually a legion of anything other than bitter, slightly libertarian basement-dwellers upset that other people are doing things outside of their existence, but on the local level, several art spaces were either shut down by police or “inspected” by vigilantes, with the Pizzagate incident at Comet Ping-Pong being the most notable – not to say that other spaces weren’t also affected. On a personal note, it seems that Rhizome in Takoma Park was inspected the same day that I was giving workshop on circuit design – which would be all fine and good since it’s zoned as commercial and the fire-code is adhered to, but as it happened, Xime was with me for this workshop – the thought that there could have been photos of my baby playing posted to a site with the sheer intention of causing malice and disarray to folks outside of the mainstream has me a little shaken. Thankfully she and Pau were out to lunch when this guy purportedly came through, but a title too-close for comfort.

And then of course there’s the aforementioned Pizzagate, where outside of the surface story of a guy driving across country to shot up a pizza parlor because the internet told him that the Democratic part was operating a child sex ring in the nonexistent basement of a pizza place, there’s a couple other seedier parts in place. For instance, the part where an associate from the scene has been receiving death threats for months since a mural he painted at said restaurant was perceived as one of the “clues” to the purported sinister baby-snatching – perhaps a little too-close for comfort. Compound that with tactics of guilt-by-association via friends and followers and the general feeling of vulnerability and the slight twinge of paranoia stemming from the thought that your next post could potentially lead to orchestrated maliciousness. Never good for the concerned art family.

And of course on top of all of that, there’s the new “extreme vetting” and federal hiring freeze put in place by the new administration to contend with. For those just tuning in, yes, we’re an immigrant family. From Latin America. And before any conclusions are drawn, yes, we’re here quite legally. In fact, Pau was even working with the State Department in Costa Rica on a couple projects before moving here and our Thanksgivings in Costa Rica were usually spent as invited guests of the US embassy – since that’s just about the only place you can find turkey in that country. But that notwithstanding, we’re still navigating the immigration process. And again, before you ask, no, marriage doesn’t guarantee immediate citizenship. We’ve probably submitted thousands of pages of supporting  documents to USCIS at this point, to the tune of approximately $1/page. Right around when Xime was born, we were granted conditional residency – meaning all is good for 2 years and then we have to file new supporting documents to prove that this was in fact a bonafide marriage. Considering that all is good in that department, the appropriate forms and supporting documents were also filed and are now circumnavigating the administrative, bureaucratic logjam of the US Immigration system – which, while already a slow system, even for accelerated cases such as ourselves, is mired down even farther due to staff reductions and increased steps to make sure that we’re not actually the “bad hombres,” looking to cause mayhem by way of sculpture, installation and sound art. So to loop this thought back to decreased social network presence, yeah, the possible risk of having this entire process upended by a stray retweet in our feed – too much of a gamble at this point.

So where to go now. One would hope that the good folks in the Valley of Silicon would be working on developing a more secure platform for communication – one less-likely to be infiltrated, monitored or usurped. One would hope. For me, at least for the time being, the best course of action is just to carry on without. At the moment, it’s kind of nice – call it the alternative path – the one less-travelled post-2005 when we all jumped on the social media bandwagon. We’re still here and still keeping busy – some would say even busier than usual, at least in the case of this weekend. The joys of anxiety as I await the results of interview one and the potential call for interview 2. But I figured I’d at least mention something about it here for anyone who may be curious. Which is where I’ll leave it for the time being. Considering it’s Sunday at all, there’s a baby to feed, laundry to do and a pile of cold-pizza left over from babysitting one of Xime’s toddler friends last night that isn’t going to eat itself. More soon.