Portland, OR based art-collective-of-two MSHR have had a busy year. Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy deepened their self-mythologizing practice during a residency at NYC's Eyebeam and just returned from Langenthal, Switzerland, where they constructed the sister show to this year's Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) installation. All this work means the TBA crowd gets more MSHR than ever before - more complex interlocking shapes of ambiguous signification, more mind-bending feedback loops of sound and light and, notable for the group's artistic evolution, more physical space, as the installation sprawls out in a large corner of the warehouse-like Fashion Tech building.
MSHR's installation, Resonant Entity Modulator, is showing daily until September 30th from 12 to 6pm with a performance by the duo on September 19th at 10pm not to be missed.

MSHR

MSHR
"Where we're at right now, it doesn't make sense for us to join a preexisting community or culture that has a set of rules or traditions. That can't happen for us, but we want that -- everyone wants that -- and with this project, we're creating our own sacred spaces and traditions. Pathways in. And up." - Brenna Murphy, MSHR

 

"Although our work has a visual component, our work is more about a virtual realm. There are these invisible, virtual hyper-chambers that are there. - Birch Cooper, MSHR
MSHR Artist Collective Interview

Sam Songailo Artist Interview
If the neon landscapes of Tron were to intersect with the real world and become fully infused with the spirit of modern electronic music, the output might look something like the 3-dimensional portals created by Australian artist, Sam Songailo. A transformer of gallery walls and public spaces into hypercolored explosions of pattern, Songailo first began exhibiting as a 2-dimensional painter in 2006. He discovered then that the canvasses he worked on, with all of their hard edges and limitations, were hardly sufficient to contain the complex circuit board-like pathways he painted. He soon found himself experimenting with the spaces beyond the canvas, first by painting on walls and then by exploring the whole of the 3-dimensional spaces he was exhibiting in. "I decided I wanted to make my work inescapable and ever-present," Songailo explains. "Instead of having to mentally project into the picture plane, visitors to the show would be inside the painting. There would be an experience for them to have and then leave."
Sam Songailo Artist Interview
This column is a part of our Geometric Spaces series, which explores artistic transformations of 3-dimensional space.
Sam Songailo Artist InterviewDigital Wasteland, 2014 - Photography by Emily Taylor

Forward-thinking and striking to behold, Danish design is known around the world for its clean lines, simple shapes, and its refined attention to experimentation. With such ideas naturally engrained into the cultural identity of the country, it seems only natural that photographers like Denmark's Torkil Gudnason, now a transplant to New York City, would extend such aesthetic qualities into his portrait and still life photography, which explores the many contours and colors of human and floral forms."America is an artistic playground for the world," says Gudnason, who relocated to the United States in 1978 and describes the Danish style as "very ascetic and minimal". In his photography, Gudnason loosens his grip on that style by turning a colorful eye away from the dark Scandinavian winters but never quite forgetting about them. "When I came here, everything was new, but somehow [I found] déjà vu through various media. My work is still quite minimal, even in the more complex images. It's more a way of reduction than addition."
From Gudnason's Body Vase Series, which is inspired by "The need to work on a form that gives birth to the continuation of mankind. A fascination of how close the feminine body is to nature."

In this stop-motion animation for Pure Bathing Culture's "Dream The Dare", director Hayley Morris -- along with illustration help from Caleb Wood -- turns what PBC describe as "psychedelic emotional imagery" into psychedelic visual imagery. Full of colors soft and bold, an array of whirling geometric shapes and hand-drawn projections comprise landscapes that are ever-mutating, as a raven flies about in its dreamy world. Below, Pure Bathing Culture and Morris share details about the intention behind this track and video, as well as its mythological inspiration and technical details.

Hayley Morris (Director)

Pure Bathing Culture (Musician)

How did your collaboration first come to form, and throughout the process, how much of an exchange of ideas was there?
Hayley Morris (Director)
Sean Pecknold, who made Pure Bathing Culture's music video for "Ivory Coast", was nice enough to recommend me for the "Dream the Dare" video. I loved the "Ivory Coast" video and song and was really excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Pure Bathing Culture on this video. I love their music. Dan and Sarah were fantastic to work with. They were drawn to the color palettes I use in my work and the dreamy and somewhat psychedelic imagery from my past videos. They were interested in having me bring this aesthetic into the "Dream the Dare" video. Dan and Sarah also felt that having a hopeful message was very important. From these initial guidelines I formed the idea and developed the style. Once I started production, the band trusted me to do my thing.
Pure Bathing Culture (Musician)
Our friend Sean Pecknold, who is an amazing director and animator as well -- and who directed the video for our song "Ivory Coast" -- shared Hayley's amazing video for the Iron and Wine song "Joy" with us. It's such a beautiful video. We immediately knew that we wanted to work with her. We had one initial conversation with Hayley where we shared a very rough stream of consciousness theme involving the crow, and she completely understood and took it from there. She was communicative about her ideas throughout the process, all of which we loved.

The mythological quest to express the sublime through the human body can be the great mystery and significance of dance. The grace and emotive gravity of dance inspire us to explore shared resonance and to comprehend our substance through a most intimate artistry. Yet we are ever limited by our human bodies, those endlessly elusive entities that enrobe our vocabularies and begin and end our extraordinary worlds. Butoh dancing (舞踏) is an expression of body that has found relevance outside of its roots in Japan, across cultures and generations.
Originally known only as the "dance of darkness" or "dance of death", Butoh has evolved into an encompassing expression of every element to be found through the human body. It does not transcend the human form or express a superhuman consciousness, but challenges us to comprehend ourselves through a different mentality. Despite the fairly recent origination of this dance form, it has quickly appealed and demonstrated that it speaks to something common within us, however we may allow our cultural and geographic borders to define us.

A Background on Butoh

tatsumi-hijikata Kazuo Ohno © H. Tsukamoto Dance is a corporeal poetry that speaks to us through sensual body memory and intangible thought, thus communicating experience and expressing ideals. We may, for instance, find the most exquisite aspirations to perfection in the sculptural forms of ballet and the etiquettes of ballroom dance -- but what dance is there to speak of anguish and terror? What of the uncontainable spirit that seeps from our grotesque beings in spite of vigilant taboo? Would it not be deceptive to express the most visceral of human experience through only forms of chiseled beauty? Dance that declares itself as an encompassing language for human experience yet speaks from under a veneer of piety for conventional aesthetics is fundamentally dishonest. With passionate protest to the void in integrity of expression and against standards of superficiality, Butoh emerged at the end of the 20th century. It was in the shadow of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that Butoh's first breaths were drawn, already shuddering naked and borne by true darkness. Shaped into its ghostly form by dancers Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata, Butoh came to define Japanese avant-garde dance in its embrace of the totality of emotional experience and the absurdity found in the raw body. Ohno and Hijikata composed a new lyric for the human body where nothing was forbidden to experience. The revolutionary spirit of Butoh explored morbidity and sexuality in its most explicit forms. By doing so, it not only transformed the Japanese stage but connected with international audiences and dancers, tantalizing a universal desire for this same purity of expression. Until the '60s, there had been no such dance within Japan that allowed for the communication of the uninhibited body and, as far as technical form, there still exist few such parallels.

Kazuo Ohno & Tatsumi Hijikata

"Butoh, as [with] so many true arts, contains the beautiful spectrum of being. Often these first looks at Butoh are early works of suffering individuals. I have found that once the repressed or taboo aspects of life and the soul are allowed to naturally surface through the body and art, the lightness and loving joy must also be revealed." - Maureen Freehill (Seattle-based Butoh dancer, Artistic Director of "Butopia")

There is no romance as elusive and magnetic as that between body and space. The pursuit of distinctive identity, formulaic functions and ideal wholeness between the human self and environment (naturally encountered or human-created) has impressed upon every aesthetic expression. Vedas, a collaborative photographic project between Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Edward Arnold, continues this dialogue in a language of human anonymity and geometric presence. Chambers, hallways and corners resonate with sensuality; architectural elements take on a humanized significance within their space. Textures are explored in fine detail -- but it is really light that has the most mass in Cope’s photography. We are challenged with the spectacle of geometry and light as identities within space, not as places or unintentional frameworks.
“Thanks to the mutual enlivening of body and landscape, a place constantly overflows its own boundaries. Uncontainable on its near edge, it flows back into the body that subtends it; uncontainable on its far side, it flows outward into the circumambient world.” – Edward S. Casey

As "Toothwheels" begins with a (relatively) hard dance beat and the video flickers with ghostly, strobing visuals, one instantly begins to think, "What the hell happened to the adorable múm that loved to frolick in nature and sing childish songs for adults?" It seems that they have shed a bit of their sunshine since their 2009 days of Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know, and their newest record, Smilewound, seems to be a darker and sparser record -- though certainly not lacking in the band's signature use of bizarre percussive sounds, bells, or string arrangements.

 

In Julian Lynch's music video for "Gloves", bizarre idea after bizarre idea is executed in fairly mundane settings. All of it might be a bit harder to swallow or a bit more trite if the video were just slightly more static -- but its glittery lighting brilliance and creeping zoom shots somehow make its awkwardness beautiful rather than overdone. This beauty extends even to its slow-motion Macarena-meet-zombie-walk dance routines and longing exchanges between the music video's main character and a mangled stuffed bunny rabbit. Stream the video or read our review of Lynch's latest album, Lines.

 

"Music for me is ooooold Tom Jones," croaked the homeless man with a weathered smile. He'd boisterously wandered into Robert Henke and I's conversation a moment ago. He mumbles a few other lines -- classic no doubt, but indecipherable -- before we tell him that we need to get back to our interview before Henke's lecture that evening. Jarring as it was at first, I felt that the old man's last quotable words were hilariously relevant to the talk I was having with Henke. As Henke and I talked about the evolution of music production and consumption as it relates to the tools involved with both, the old man was a reminder of just how far everything has come.
Henke has much to say about the use of engineering and interface construction as creative mediums -- ones that are practiced by unsung hierophants of the esoteric arts of electronics and software development. Being the last man standing of influential minimal techno pioneers turned multi-sensory space voyagers, Henke is a learned man on this subject. His electronic dance project Monolake is world-reknowned for its 6-channel, audio-visual performances, and his work as one of the principle designers behind Ableton Live has contributed to making the music software an industry standard. One could even say that Henke has had more influence over the last ten years on the way millions of people create and perform their music globally than any bigger-selling musicians or producers, simply because he helped build the instruments we're all using to bring our ideas to life. Not that he would jump to point that out, mind you; Henke isn't quick to list his accomplishments, but he is sincere in noting his place in the lineage of artists who have fashioned their own tools. Out of the joy of solving puzzles and the need to make that sound, image, etc. their own way, those engineer-artists have inadvertently come up with novel technologies that the rest of us can not only enjoy, but use to create our own works.
"I see a lot of similarities between fascinating engineering and fascinating art. Both have to do with craftsmanship; both have to do with finding a simple solution for a complex problem. And it has to do with elegance and needs inspiration. It’s underestimated how much inspiration goes into good engineering, and how much artistic thinking is involved in good engineering." - Robert Henke