Requiem for fossil fuels

Kickstart the Veterans Book Project

Dialog in/of/on the tall grasses

Stephen Vitiello, Tall Grasses (location shot), 2010. Courtesy of the artist

I am thrilled to be in dialog with artist Stephen Vitiello about his exhibition Stephen Vitiello: Tall Grasses, along with Christopher Cox, exhibition curator and Executive Director of the Salina Art Center on Friday, October 29. I hope you can make it, if you are in the area.

“Composer, electronic musician, and sound artist Stephen Vitiello is well-known for his experimental approaches to the phenomenological aspects of sound. His field recordings of ubiquitous atmospheric noises are often mixed with electronics to create palpable soundscapes. The play list for Stephen Vitiello: Tall Grasses provides a layered perspective into Vitiello’s explorations of sound, including a room-size installation looping works from 2004 to 2010; a video collaboration with Brazilian filmmaker Eder Santos; and a new sound piece commissioned by the Salina Art Center expressly for this exhibition that echoes the natural life of Kansas’s remaining tallgrass prairies.”–Salina Art Center

Photo Stephen Vitiello

Stephen recently curated a series of midnight concerts at Trinity Cathedral in San Jose for the 01SJ Biennial, and Northern also commissioned him to do a project on the aurora borealis, although nothing sparked, so to speak, on that trip.

The previous day, Thursday, I will also be speaking with R. Luke DuBois about his exhibtion Hindsight Is Always 20/20 at the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita.

Small Wonders

Strange Fruit

Labor Camp Orchestra album: Songs From The Labor Camp. via NPR

Labor Camp Orchestra album: Songs From The Labor Camp. via NPR

It’s “old news” at this point, but still worth pointing out – and listening to.

Piotr Szyhalski’s Labor Camp Orchestra is an ongoing work that has been the site for much of his public artwork over the past several years, including two installations in at LABoral in Gijon, Spain for the exhibition FEEDFORWARD – Angel of History, which I co-curated with Christiane Paul.

As the website states, Labor Camp Orchestra is

“the Aural Branch of the Labor Camp. Since it’s gradual inception between 1998-1999 Labor Camp Orchestra remains committed to construction of auditory experiences, which follow no singular philosophy, process or idea.”

Back in June, the Labor Camp Orchestra was featured in an NPR story by Lara Pellegrinelli, “Evolution of a Song: Strange Fruit.” The words of the song were originally penned in 1936 under the name Lewis Allan by Bronx schoolteacher Abel Meeropol in reaction to a photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930. via Wikipedia

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930. via Wikipedia

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Billie Holiday’s memorable rendition of Strange Fruit the same again after viewing this photograph, which is part of the point of Szyhalski’s “cover” of it via Labor Camp Orchestra – to make visceral the Iraq war. To take us beyond the blaring headlines, patriotic jingoism, and national security fervor to a place that is literally unforgettable. According to Pellegrinelli,

“The group’s version of “Strange Fruit” passes for perky, tidy electronica on first listen. In reality, it emerged from a conceptual thread on events in Iraq and specifically addresses the execution of Saddam Hussein. Based solely on Meeropol’s poem, it juxtaposes his words with a woman reciting the names of fruits in Arabic. An archival recording from the Hussein execution and Koranic recitation plays in the background.”

Listen here.