2 Dec 2016

Standard Oil Company and Petro-Subjectivity, Performance - Radio Revolten

"Just a note to say I had a listen to 'Petro-Subjectivity, attracted by the title, and love it -- you really get to the heart of the toxic mess....
and the Neruda poem, oh yes.... in every dimension, really beautiful work....."  
Gregory Whitehead, radio artist.

Making notes is the key to being a good poet, we were told, as we sat cross legged on the lawn of an Indian music academy in Maharastra, India in 1999. The speaker was a retired accountant, now renowned not only for the music academy he founded, but the many Qawaalis and poems he had penned since. He went on Write down anything that springs to mind; a line, a phrase, you never know what it may blossom into.

Now, years later, in a new century, in which the fall out from past actions by BP in Iran are still surfacing, old lines come to mind. On this reflection, we performed an hour's live piece for Radio Revolten, composed of my recordings of the sounds of my surroundings in Halle, a town full of astoundingly detailed architecture. I also pulled in a thread begun in my last post, the poem by Neruda, and a book on my shelf, Petrosubjectivity by Brett Bloom, who I'd interviewed many years ago for Resonance104.4FM.  The sounds of Halle were: football hooligans (one wearing an electronic tag on his ankle), the train from Leipzig to Halle, an impressive array of musical instruments decorating our Airbnb: Persian tar, a guitar I prepared, electronic keyboards, an accordion, a ukelele, a berimbau...and voices at Radio Revolten. Here Georg Nicholl translates my Neruda reading spontaneously into German, in an improvised ping pong of thought and suggested images. The sounds of being in Germany then, with thoughts of a reoccurring greed for profit.
What has Neruda's pen done to stem the growth of hatred, except to identify more clearly the uninhabited gestures of a common enemy.

21 Oct 2016

All Hallows' Eve

I made these videos on my phone, both are with the original ambient sound, one made in a shopping Mall in the UAE, the other in a homestead in UK. I post them here as a note, because it struck me, again, this Halloween that no fiction is scarier than the reality of what, in fact, men to do one another, and to themselves; from the swift impact of war, to the slower seeping poisons of capitalism.
Neruda says it most clearly, below, an extract from his early poem Standard Oil Company: 

Standard Oil Company
Their obese emperors from New York
are suave smiling assassins
who buy silk, nylon, cigars
petty tyrants and dictators.
They buy countries, people, seas, police, county councils,
distant regions where the poor hoard their corn
like misers their gold:
Standard Oil awakens them,
clothes them in uniforms, designates
which brother is the enemy.
the Paraguayan fights its war,
and the Bolivian wastes away
in the jungle with its machine gun.
A President assassinated for a drop of petroleum,
a million-acre mortgage,
a swift execution on a morning mortal with light, petrified,
a new prison camp for subversives,
in Patagonia, a betrayal, scattered shots
beneath a petroliferous moon,
a subtle change of ministers
in the capital, a whisper
like an oil tide,
and zap, you’ll see
how Standard Oil’s letters shine above the clouds,
above the seas, in your home,
illuminating their dominions.
Extract, Pablo Neruda

17 Sep 2016

Jebel Hafeet Mountain - جبل حفيت‎

Driving to Al Ain, towards Oman, at Jebel Hafeet the coral has formed an immense natural totem. 

The pink of the rock body, reaching up to the uninterrupted sky, meets its hue in the glowing tail of the receding sun.

Hundreds of creatures, a mass of butterflies, thrive around caves at the base, where a hot water spring pools out in the horizon.
 Graffiti behind iron railings, speaks of a millennia old human gesture; to daub on naturally occurring walls. Mountain felines convene around commercial food sources.

 As day pulls away, electricity announces its dominion in the void of the night, and the landscape, the distance, becomes a transitory circuit board.

18 Jun 2016

Noise of the Middle East - Performance

Your drafts folder is a notepad. One I found was this clip taken from the crowd when I performed on stage during a short residency at New York University, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.

Here's an interview with Time Out I gave about the festival.

12 Mar 2016

The Wedding Project - Art Dubai

The Wedding Project forms part of the politics of food programme that has been running at Delfina Foundation for some years now. The theme expands as a wedding project at Art Dubai 2016 where nightly eating and cooking as a performative act are explored.

The Mina a’Salam Hotel that are typically used as venues for executive meals, business conferences and weddings. Taking these formats as a starting point, Delfina Foundation has curated a pop-up bar and banquet hall under the theme os a wedding banquet and mixes continuous offerings of food and drink with seated, time-based performative meals. What would a wedding be without music?

11 Mar 2016

Performance - An UnMuted Serving, Art Week Dubai

Recently my work has been in collaboration with Christopher Weaver, detailed on our website.

Our latest piece is a new performative, electro-acoustic piece titled An UnMuted Serving.

After exploring the tonalities and resonances of domestic objects for many years in the UK, we moved to the UAE and recently took part in a residency in Pakistan.
One way this move influenced
 our practice was that we incorporated the steel dining plates and cups, thali, common nearly exclusively to Indian and Pakistani homes both in the UAE. The thali is prevalent here in the UAE, on sale or in use in restaurants in every residential area where people of Indian and Pakistani origin reside.

For An UnMuted Serving we interact with these everyday domestic materials in a gestural performance, while digital sounds tease, obscure and mimic the sounds of these steel cups and plates, used daily in family dinners. Recontextualised, lit up on a stage or at a private gallery dinner, they take on a particular significance of both context and location. The piece explores a realm of both familiar and uncovered sounds, working in synchronicity and juxtaposition with electronically manipulated ones. 

Our performance will mark the opening of the Art Week Dubai show at The Mine arts space of Japanese installation artist Yasuaki Onishi, in a private performance. Onishi's works, which we will be surrounded by, are ephemeral, translucent forms that collapse when touched. The installation is lit with a diffused glow that speaks of a warmth or a presence just out of view, rendering them a quality in their materiality that is reminiscent of the lightness of Japanese shoji room dividers, translucent papers over frames and lattices of wood or bamboo.

These glowing, forms are suspended with the most fragile filaments of black, that are traces of the artist's own gestures as he commitedly installs his own works. They are placed in order to point to an organic verticality, which takes on a pointed meaning in a city of skyscrapers and we intend our performance to add to their presence, while they give an unforgettable ambience to our work, symbiotically. In An UnMuted Serving, the thali bowls and dishes sing from a waist high table, to a room of people who are standing or seated. Traditionally in Indian, Pakistani Japanese homes all over the world, the thali are eaten from while seated on the floor, in some places with the hand.

There was a time, not long ago, when people of the Gulf too would dine seated on the floor, yet now very few homes keep up this practice or do so only on certain occasions. 

On Wednesday March 16th, 5:45-6.30pm we perform the same, below the stage in the Al Fahidi (Al Bastakiya) heritage neighbourhood in Dubai. We decided the performance of An UnMuted Serving, rather than be performed on stage, should be at an accessible level on the ground, making the stage a prop in our participation with the space. The two storey buildings of Al Fahidi, made with local coral-cement and replete with wind towers, hark back to a time when people of the Gulf too would dine seated on the floor; only some homes now do or on certain occasions. 

Sikka16 is in Al Fahidi is on the creek, in the old part of Dubai

In this way, the public squares within the Al Fahidi neighbourhood serve as performance spaces for different acts that bring part and present together, architecture and spoken word into a common realm, free for the public to view. 

Christopher Weaver and I play the steel dinnerware alongside a video that we created to reflect the above points of interest.

3 Jan 2016

An Alternative Geneology of Musique Concrete in Cairo - Ibraaz

El Dabh using tape in 1940s Cairo

A series of interviews by myself and Chris Weaver with Halim El Dabh (b.1921), who began using both musique concrete and reel to reel tape for his compositions in Egypt, years before Pierre Schaeffer, the composer that is ordinarily credited to have been the first.

This approx 5,000 word essay is the result of extensive research into El Dabh's background and the atmosphere in Cairo at the time which had allowed him to undertake these significant experiments. The article includes audio samples of his voice and early compositions, and quotes from interviews today while examining the place of El Dabh's composition and its significance within the wider history of creativity in his era.

El Dabh created a piece of music intended to be played back on a reel to reel tape recorder, rather than performed live, which no one had done before him. He also took sounds of the streets and manipulated them electronically, as components for his specifically musique concrete composition, in 1944.

Professor Halim El Dabh is 94 years old