despairing horizontally

sound installation
the brewery, los angeles

i think it was probably my reading a lot of rilke in the late 90’s that got me interested in saints and their stories. i remember working with such things in grad school, and one of my teachers having a lot of issues with the work because she had gone to catholic school and had tons of baggage. for me, these stories were a lot like literature – as they meant nothing to me in terms of my own history or upbringing… they were just interesting, and somewhat surreal stories, that felt related to a lot of the literature that i was responding to – hermann broch, rilke, hermann hesse, thomas mann, etc.

i do remember, at the time, being interested in Simeon the Stylite, whom i had read about in an old copy of the penguin dictionary of saints. simeon was was a “pillar ascetic”, living on a platform at the top of a tower 60 feet in the air. the solitude was appealing to me, but even more so, the text mentioned that ‘despairing of escaping the world horizontally, he tried to escape it vertically’, a phrase which struck me as being absolutely beautiful.

when the organization far (foundation for arts resources) sent out a call for works to be installed in the old brewery building in downtown los angeles, i couldn’t help but see the brewery’s gigantic smokestack in relation to simeon the stylite’s tower.

this was one of my very first sound installations, and it was created with photographer (and trumpet player) kevin mchugh, with whom i had begun to perform with. to begin, kevin and i spent several hours in the enormous empty abandoned building, and recorded ourselves making sound – using both instruments and the space itself… via tapping, rubbing and otherwise activating surfaces and objects within. i mixed the raw recordings into a 20 minute work that was playing beneath a wooden staircase (and thus, situating the work at a crossroads of both horizontal and vertical trajectories). it was an early attempt to use sound to suggest space, as well as dealing with ideas of performance and how a work can converse with a space’s history. unfortunately, no documentation exists.