Baz N, EST
THE CRACKLING -how did this project come about,and what was the original intention when setting about the task of recording a straight line particle accelerator?
One night I was watching a TV documentary of a race between SLAC at Stanford in California and CERN in Switzerland to discover a subatomic particle. Several years earlier I’d read about the building of SLAC and was already curious about the way it worked, but when I saw images of the complex in the documentary it suddenly hit me that the site could be an incredibly rich source for sounds I’d never heard before.
Was there any “red tape” involved with gaining access to the facility?
None that I know about. Stephen Travis Pope knew my work and was doing research at Stanford then; he was kind enough to set up a tour. I was completely straightforward about why I wanted to visit the complex, and arrived at the gate covered with recording equipment. Our guide, Mike Hildreth, was a researcher working there who also performed in a choir that specialized in 20th Century music. He answered every question I put to him about the complex, and pointed out areas crucial to the operation of the facility as well as places where he thought the sounds alone were special. He explained openly and in detail the operations of each section we visited.
How did Max Springer get involved,and what was the extent of his input?
Max offered his computer-editing studio when I told him about this project and said that I wanted to edit this work on an electron-based system. He was very, very generous with his time and expertise as well as his equipment, patiently explaining how the system worked and making it possible for me to perform final edits and processing on my own. When I would explain what I wanted to hear at a certain point, he and his partner Benzine suggested and tried combinations of programs to get that sound. The three of us worked on the project for a year and a half, ending in a marathon at Max’s San Diego studio where I’d get up at 6 am and work until midnight, then they’d take over the computer and do processing until 6 am. We worked this way for 10 days nonstop until the final edit was made.
How did you come to work with Bernhard Gunter on HOME: UNSPEAKABLE -your styles seem so different, and yet it works extremely well. Did you work closely together,or was this a “long distance” collaboration ?
We worked face-to-face in Bernhard’s studio, checking each section and each detail in that section until we agreed on how it sounded. We met 3 times. These sessions each lasted 3 or 4 days, over a period of about a year.
Can you go into more detail about the association with Beckett ?
Bernhard and I were both looking for a way to make music based roughly on what each of us knows about the experience of being conscious. We both like Beckett’s writing. We liked the libretto ‘Neither’ that he wrote for Morton Feldman, and decided to use it as a base, a point of reference.
Some of your performance and installation work takes the form of an open ritual-was this your intention?
My intention is to make situations where I learn, as a participant.
BUS RIDE was done to see whether or not the idea that aggression comes from repressed sexual energy was true. I was working for the Los Angeles city transit system, and decided to use the bus I was driving to put an odor similar to vaginal secretions during orgasm into the ventilation system. The bus had windows that didn’t open, so it was a fairly accurate arena to subject unwitting passengers to a subliminal sexual stimulant. I did this twice: once to sedate middle-income commuters coming home from their offices downtown, then a month later to a group of kids coming home from a school that specialized in training etiquette. In both cases these passengers were normally introverted and quiet; these times they attacked each other and tore up the bus.
SCARE was a response to being attacked on an L.A. street by a gang that made me believe they had a gun. One of them broke a broom handle on my neck from behind, and for a split second I thought I’d been shot. For that split second I felt a cold terror, then when I didn’t see any blood and realized I was OK I felt a hot anger. Within seconds I went from one emotional extreme to the other, and when the moment was over I was fascinated by that. SCARE was done to create those extremes for unsuspecting participants. At night I approached the houses of people I knew well, dressed in a full-head mask that was partly covered by a cap and turtleneck sweater, carrying a gun loaded with blanks. When each man answered the door, I shot him point-blank in the face and disappeared.
KICK is performed using a form of hyperventilation that causes complete loss of physical and psychic control. I first learned this technique from a therapist in L.A. as a treatment for violent behavior. When she conducted sessions in front of a group of other therapists, these events changed for me from a form of treatment into something completely separate, something universally human. Soon after that I started performing this exercise in front of an audience; the first time was for live radio broadcast. Every time I perform KICK now something different happens, and I learn something else about what it is to be conscious.
The STRESS CHAMBER installation is a modified shipping container with three vibrators set to create the container’s resonant frequency from three different directions. Outside, this vibration shakes the ground for a radius of 50 meters. Inside the container, this becomes a tangible object moving around the space at random. The participant goes in alone, strips completely and is locked inside in total darkness. With all motors running, the frequency passes around and through the participant’s body.
Do you see acts of this kind as a conceptual provocation, or is there perhaps something more esoteric going on?
I’m not interested in provoking. I’m interested in learning, simple as that.
How did you get involved in film making, particularly pornography?
Pornography shows aspects of a culture that the culture wants to deny, to keep hidden. So pornography, at least for me, is a kind of mirror that shows what people in a culture are afraid of — and aroused by — within themselves. At first I bought 8mm films at porn shops and collaged them with other images. In Japan, a commercial erotic video producer offered me the chance to script and direct my own commercial erotic video. I agreed to make a series.
Do you see this as a natural extension (forgive the pun) of your artistic expression?
JOHN DUNCAN on making The CRACKLING
Baz N, EST