Tuesday, March 18, 2008

[REVIEW] Repressed III @ Gallery 5

Richmond may be full of alienation and frustration, but it makes for damn good art.

With events like I Dream of Richmond and Repressed III, Gallery 5 shows us the best of what community arts can be, providing not just a space, but a communal and aesthetic context for critically engaged art. Gallery 5 asks the Richmond community to reflect upon itself and its direction, allowing us to critique, hope and act.

At the opening of Repressed III, an annual series of works on paper arranged by T.O.W.A.R., First Friday art walkers got a warped tour of their own city, courtesy of the Society of Advanced Psychogeographical Perception Mechanics. Large boxes, covered in black and white paper collages of historic city buildings were placed around the upstairs gallery. Some had miniature gardens on top, while others has slate for chalk messages. From the ceiling hung buildings carried into (or from?) the city by parachute. The buildings, chopped and designed into patterns gave the viewer a sense of disorientation. The viewer was called upon to speak out - at the back of the sculptural display was a podium with a live mic and buildings were topped with slate begging for chalk messages. Like the controversial Free Speech Monument in Charlottesville, these forums captured both the silly and the serious with messages about peace along side juvenile jokes. The images contributing to this visual installation can be seen around Richmond, wheat-pasted in gentrifying areas of the city - a guerilla activist art that tells us "You can't fight alienation with alienated means."

Solid performances were held throughout the evening by Pacific Before Tiger (NC), Amrita K. Dang (Baltimore, MD), Cars Will Burn (Philadelphia, PA), and Caustic Castle + Jason Talbot + Clifford Schwing w/ video by Eric Eaton (Richmond, VA)

The final set of the evening Caustic Castle, Jason Talbot and Clifford Schwing showed the depth and diversity of the Richmond Noise community. Caustic Castle, deftly manipulating feedback through a no-input mixer he built himself, gently processed the thuds, squeals and rich tones of Clifford Schwing's saxophone. Schwing made impressive, measured use of notes and musical phrases, sticking most of the time to long tones that he sustained with circular breathing and then switching up to noisy clatter of pads and air. The set began as a dialogue between Caustic Castle and Schwing, with Jason Talbot on turntable etching his way into the conversation, playing bells and knives on the needle. Within the context of Eric Eaton's short black and white film, the three performers built up intense waves of sound creating an ebb and flow form. As we watched spray paint drip down mannequins and saw the close up grit of spray paint cans, the dialogue between disparate instruments built into a wall of sound that was broken in a perfect moment of silence -- Schwing played a quick lick that drew on his free jazz chops and everyone stopped. In that moment, the chatter of gallery goers became woven into the sounds of the performance, as if responding to the sax. At the end of the set, Caustic Castle cathadically blasted us with white noise and Talbot had his turntable in the air, pressing the needle to the vinyl. When they cut out, Schwing was left underneath cycling a mid-range tone in beautiful contrast with the last spitting and sputtering of Talbot and Caustic Castle.

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