Stephen Vitiello and Marina Rosenfeld
STEPHEN VITIELLO: Another thing about titles and this idea of commodity and market is that we are at this very vital moment. There are something like seven exhibitions coming up in New York including the New Sound, New York festival in the spring. There have been a growing number of shows integrating sound into museums in the last five years or so. But for me what is really going to make it last as it is—if it’s going to last—is if it takes on a kind of commodity form, if it becomes buyable. From the artists I know that come out of that ’60s and ’70s conceptual period, they had an enormous amount of audio work that for the most part hasn’t sold. Vito Acconci is an amazing artist who has done an enormous amount of work with audio, but no one really knows him for that.
MARINA ROSENFELD: Maryanne Amacher has this vast, totally seminal and important body of recorded material that needs to be reformatted for contemporary equipment.
STEPHEN VITIELLO: And it needs to be documented.
MARINA ROSENFELD: I think a lot of younger artists are thinking about that and are interested in doing that. Especially now with DVD a lot of this work is in the process of being archived. I think that will have an effect on the extent to which the history is known or unknown. Some of these things have mythic proportions, things that you could have never been there for, but that can only be a good thing.
STEPHEN VITIELLO: I think it was in Minneapolis, that empty house of Molly and Dennis Russell Davies that Maryanne took over for a sound installation—that’s a mythic piece. It was called Living Sound, Patent Pending” MUSIC FOR SOUND-JOINED ROOMS” and was presented during the New Music America Festival, Minneapolis-St. Paul (1980). The music and visual sets were staged architecturally, throughout the nearly empty Victorian house. There’s a story that Molly tells of the police coming to shut it down (after complaints of noise) and Alvin Lucier had+ to explain to them that it was a work of art and that the volume was essential to the piece. I was curating a component to the Whitney’s American Century and I asked her if there was a way that she could present it. She said, “You’re crazy. What is documentation going to do?” There was that conference at the Guggenheim a couple years ago on variable media, looking at how works can be presented outside of the original intention or when the artist isn’t there. Maryanne is such a case. Her work is so remarkable but only if it’s really presented through a very particular technology. The tuning of herself to the building is not something you can just put up on a set of speakers, although her Tzadik CD is very beautiful.
MARINA ROSENFELD: I think what we’re talking about comes down to another issue, which is experience. When I’m thinking about that Maryanne Amacher work what popped into my mind was when I was able to see some physical objects from Gordon Matta-Clark. It would have been a little earlier maybe, but some of those pieces, forms cutting through houses, were documented wonderfully through film and photography. There was a show in Los Angeles in the ’90s about the dematerialization of the art object. They had pieces from the building where you could look in a physical, sculptural, plastic sense at these layers of material from which the house was built. It was really quite fascinating to see. It was just a chunk of something that someone had preserved, if I remember correctly, that has a metonymic relationship
to the overall piece that musicians haven’t explored so much—like a CD in relation to a live piece. Even a CD of a Beethoven Symphony only has a fractional relationship to the actual symphony, which exists in multiple versions somewhere in a kind of ideal state. I think sound artists, or contemporary artists working with sound and music composition, could be thinking more about artifacts that have a partial relationship to the whole as an interesting way of making a connection to live experience—I know I’m really interested in that as a performing artist and also as an orchestrator of events. The object doesn’t have to be equivalent to the experience. Not so much a documentary, but there are interesting ways of experience seeping into materials that in someway act as stand-ins.
STEPHEN VITIELLO: I think for me it’s always been important to represent that, but for there to be responsibility on the part of the museum, or gallery, or CD production company, or whoever to somehow give people context. What I see happen too often is that that element then gets presented as the work. People will think, ‘Oh I’ve seen that piece of Gordon Matta-Clark,’ even though all they’ve seen is an artifact or an element. When I look at some of these archival-based labels, there are labels that have done a good job describing the context under which this work was made, or even just saying that this is an except or one of the ways in which this work has been performed. In whatever form our mediums grow there’s the issue of archiving and how responsible people are describing that in detail and, depending on the artist, how much they want it said that this is the ultimate version or not the ultimate version.
MARINA ROSENFELD: Or conversely, how open the institution is to actually presenting the real experience—making available the opportunity to mount the live work, not just the after effect, or distilled object, or the history 20 years later. It seems like this is happening in certain places, which is good.
STEPHEN VITIELLO: I think so, too. I always had this thought, it goes back to when I was producing this CD of Nam June Paik’s audio pieces from the late ’50s. People will say, ‘Oh yes, I’ve heard Nam June Paik‘s Homage to John Cage,’ which was one of the works. Basically I found all the tapes he used to play in a performance in which he might have three tape recorders playing, but it’s not an actual tape of the whole piece. I tried to explain it in the liner notes, but it’s just that same kind of thing. Maybe it doesn’t deeply matter. Maybe it’s great that they heard something that they wouldn’t have otherwise heard. But for me it’s almost like: ‘Well, you heard the piano, but you didn’t hear the rest of the orchestra.’ The piano might have been the soloist, but you still had these other elements.