Theater / Film
WATER Fest ‘Covalent Bond’ Preview: Interview with Barron Sherer
All known basic elements in our physical universe have their own set of atomic properties, such as an atomic number, or melting or freezing points. But all atoms prefer an octet formation and will gain or lose electrons to form that stable configuration with other atoms. By sharing valence, electrons in the outer shell of an atom form covalent bonds to adjacent atoms.
There is probably no more precious a covalent bond than water — whose abundance or scarcity shapes the geography and economies of the continents, and the weather systems that affect them.
These are some of the inspirations for Tigertail’s month long series WATER fest, with various performances and site-specific presentations of dance, music, film and art throughout Miami.
Closing out the series at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium’s On.Stage Black Box, on April 29 and 30, is the most aptly named presentation, Covalent Bond, a collaborative interdisciplinary performance with music and film between New York-based composer/percussionist Fast Forward and local media artist Barron Sherer. Fast Forward will make music with instruments floating in his “pool table” and Sherer will randomly sequence multi-channeled projections of contemporary and archival water imagery, giving them new context through juxtaposition and re-purposing.
Fast Forward is best known for his in-depth musical explorations of the Trinidadian steel pan, and his music-theater works adopting a sculptural approach to creating sound. Feeding Frenzy, a culinary concert for 5 musicians, 5 cooks, 5 waiters and the audience has been performed all over the world. He regularly composes for modern dance companies and choreographers. He toured extensively as a guest composer and musician for The Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
Sherer is a an archivist and researcher, whose installations are media archeology in a fine art milieu. Sherer has also curated and coproduced many film programs and festivals for local cinemas, museums, galleries and moving image archives, and has researched thousands of moving images for award-winning productions including Academy Award nominated films such as The Weather Underground, Milk, and The Cove.
Sherer shared insights on his work, his process and the upcoming collaboration.
Artburst: With the archival and referential nature of your work, is there any particular historical, cultural, or popular context you feel especially drawn to?
If I am especially drawn to particular content, it might have to do with what’s around the studio, what film someone just gave me, or perhaps thematically related to a commission or event. There’s always a research element to my work, the hunt for material to mash up. Quite often, I am drawn to historical representations of our community — cinema history, typically, mid 20th-century ephemeral or orphaned motion picture material (ads, home movies, educational films) catches my eye.
For some work that is referential to a period or culture, the impact might be different for each spectator based on their own relationship to those images. Do you expect that people of different generations or backgrounds would have vastly different approaches to your work?
Totally, half of what’s happening with these juxtapositions is what audiences bring to it! Plus, I’m always very interested in what others see in my presentations. I personally am seeing in the forms and structures of the media I am working with the obvious desire by society to use and control water. Our displays might subtly suggest that’s futile.
Is there any personal sense of nostalgia that inspires your work as an archivist or visual archeologist?
I have an affinity for archival moving image material, you can call that nostalgia. There is that tricky notion of, ‘how does one have nostalgia for something they didn’t experience?’
Count me in as a member of the “It’s new if you haven’t seen it” school. My research and study for my art practice can skew towards the clinical: There is a routine of finding what works for my project, and materials don’t have to be obvious representations. There can be formal concerns — patterns, repetitions, visual tropes that strengthen the work, that fit my current aesthetic. This is a contemporary practice where I’m interested in making new meanings and sometimes amplifying what was already there, with existing material. What I am enjoying about this Tigertail commission is how the new elements I’ve shot on 16mm and digital video are handled like found material, manipulated and reworked into new things that weren’t fully apparent during capture.
In the age of digital, how does your work either incorporate or reject contemporary methods, materials and themes?
I don’t really reject contemporary methods and materials.
I think themes we extract from archival materials are very contemporary and relevant. Part of the fun for me, is displaying/ revealing them or seeing themes discovered by an audience.
For the WATER series, you are collaborating with Fast Forward in a presentation titled Covalent Bond. It is a great play on words for both the literal bonding of atoms, and the two artists involved in the project. Is the title indicative of the work bringing both fluid and disparate elements to play in something greater than its parts?
Fast Forward came up with the title and it’s kind of brilliant. I realized that after I consulted the dictionary.
For the piece you will be working with randomly chosen projections, and in your own work you use juxtaposition and chance. With Fast Forward’s extensive work with Cunningham and Cage, the masters of chance processes, you both seem perfectly matched for this piece. Will the collaboration be completely or mostly spontaneous?
Mary Luft and Tigertail Productions have the vision thing, I think the pairing with Fast Forward is inspired and I’m frankly honored. Mostly spontaneous, yes. There is a loose structure in our collaboration and we have ideas of suites of sound and images.
On my part, I chose locations and compositions when I shot film and video. There was also a thought process of what would I like to see displayed in the environment at the auditorium. I also make choices as I assemble content and process it. There will be anticipation and surprise for me over the course of the two evening performances because I’ll never really know what’s coming next visually or aurally — what’s onscreen, how Fast responds to it or imbues it through sound performance
‘Covalent Bond,’ Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, at 8:30 p.m., Miami-Dade County Auditorium’s On.Stage Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami; tickets $25 general admission; and $50 VIP with table seating;
Prior to the concert, from 8:05 to 8:25 p.m.. a free discussion will be held in the lobby. ‘Light, Vapor, Clouds’ will be examined by climate scientist Dr. Paquita Zuidema and visual artist John Bailly.