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PLU multimedia workshop – Alessandra Trevisan

PLU multimedia workshop – Alessandra Trevisan

PLU multi media workshop – Alessandra Trevisan 16/01/16

ferabam in oculis Latinos poetas, apud quos ferventer rerum naturam meus visus legabat. Cor ardet qualis scientia siderea personam novam induescat.

Before my eyes lie those Latin poets, in whose works my mind reads keenly of the nature of things; my heart burns like when starry knowledge brings about a new personality.

Back in January – this reviewer has only just woken up from the winter sleep – PLU had the pleasure of receiving Alessandra Trevisan from Venice, Italy, to watch her experimental performance of words, music and a whole lot of looping. As is the case with the Mini Writing Residency (MWR), Alessandra then led a workshop at Berkeley Books, by Odéon, where she unveiled and deconstructed more of her Art.

Before coming to a description of this Art, though, we have to first look at some etymology. In the handout she gave us, which was a big spider diagram of concepts that inspired her work, the prefix ‘con-’ repeatedly appeared: corroborate, concentration, etc. Wiktionary’s definition of it is illuminating: 1. Used in compounds to indicate a being or bringing together of several objects; 2. Used in compounds to indicate the completeness, perfecting of any act, and thus gives intensity to the signification of the simple word.

Alessandra’s Art is exactly this, bringing together the spoken word with the sung word, classical music with non-traditional sounds, a culture of refined lyricism with one of chaos and experimentation. As she said of her university days, tellingly, in the morning she studied Manzoni and contemporary literature in the afternoon. This led me to wonder what she must have been getting up to at night.

For anyone whose experience of experimental music reaches only to John Cage, you need to know that there is a great deal of preparation involved. As has been said elsewhere, our Art needs to be crafted and honed in order for us to produce something worthwhile; otherwise it is merely Play. Here is an exercise that Alessandra proposed: take six silent moments of six seconds interspersed with 12 pairs of six-letter words of two to three syllables (one for the scrabble players) and record. Let’s try it out:

Silence: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Danger forest – lively seeker
Silence: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Window create – wanton revive
Silence: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Planet solary – atrium madden
Silence: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Berlin sun-god – jacket humble
Silence: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Seated stated – feared hedges
Silence: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Hammer crisis – flower turgid

Elsewhere in Alessandra’s work, who is also a trained jazz musician, is a keen sense of harmony, melody and patterning. Her perfomance on the Thursday night (ignoring technical glitches, of course) took us down a looping of slightly sombre melodic positioning (think Imogen Heap) along with the proud declaration that “there are too many words” and all of this framing a kind of Italian freestyle in the middle. Her voice is well suited and trained for the microphone and I can hear even now the refrain, coming back to me like the midnight call of a weeping Lorelei.

“The woman is fluent in gibberish”. And with this, we can look at the other side of Alessandra’s artistic soul: experimentation. Following Mariangela Gualtieri, she introduces coughs and gasps into her looping, as well as whole sentences of gibberish (again, though, carefully crafted) or noises you hear in the shopping mall. It is this side that the Classicist in me cannot fully comprehend, but can appreciate in her work because it is clearly rehearsed and considered. But are we not bordering on madness? Is this a planned and structured collection of non-sensical randomness, organised by ‘reverse’ with sound effects and nihilistic lyricism which gives the semblance of chaos? And maybe that’s it; the human need to see chaos, instead of the orchestrated and recognisable dictates of an old order, to break into something new and fresh – “n’importe où hors du monde”.

And part of what multimedia artists do is hypnosis (cf. McGimsey’s “Synchronicity of Waves”) and the looping of a particular sample represents the swinging pendulum of the psychiatrist, working his or her patient into a state of trance. Which only leads us further down the rabbit-hole to a sublimation of the ego. I’m all about killing the author and eliminating the first and second persons to represent something completely removed from anything we might recognise in the artist. It is like when you become lost in the world of the book you are reading and for a few hours the world around you melts away and only the book exists.

And the more I reflect on this, the more I realise that artistic hypnosis can do this on a larger scale, such that I felt on the Thursday performance of Alessandra’s work. It is through all of what has been discussed so far that we destroy our barriers so that everything can become a free-flowing, trans-temporal, trans-harmonic, trans-melodic disappearance of the ego and to surrender ourselves to that innate human desire to hear ourselves speak.

To return, though, to the original etymology, I borrow the words of the Foreword to PLU Magazine No. 3: “A transbodied rhizome of singular multiplicities who breaks disciplinary limits and conjures new forms using light, sound, words, colors.” Looking over my notes, it is clear that Alessandra draws inspiration from other artists, including Gualtieri, Laurie Anderson, Joan La Barbara, Shara Worden, Patrizia Olivia, and Stockhausen. The ‘genre’ that Wikipedia gives to all of these artists is experimental. What a transbodied rhizome, what singular multiplicities, what a convivium of artistic influence that adds depth and layers to Alessandra’s Art.

After all, is this not the point of what we do? To draw from the well springs of the universal (or otherwise) community of those who have gone before us? Is it not only from standing on the shoulders of giants that we will be able to look further?

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