Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Arrives: Rose Kallal's "Lady of the Lakes" at Ramiken Crucible

Excerpt of Rose Kallal, Joe Denardo, and Mark Beasley, Lady of the Lakes performance, at Ramiken Crucible, New York, June 21, 2011. Video: 16 Miles

Paula Cooper Gallery used to mark the end of each year with complete, non-stop readings of Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans or James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. "[P]eople have been reading ... aloud nonstop since Wednesday evening and should finish the 925-page novel this evening," the New York Times wrote, on January 2, 1981, of a reading of the former, advising those planning to catch the end of the marathon: "Bring cushions and dress warmly."

Joe Denardo and Rose Kallal

That tradition ended in 2000, but artists, their dealers, and curators have continued to consult the calendar for reasons to celebrate and perform. The summer solstice, for instance, has provided a few memorable art moments recently. In 2009, Frank Haines presented a series of appropriately occult happenings at P.S.1. on the pivotal day, and this year the Socrates Sculpture Park held its 10th annual solstice celebration, staying open until sunset. Further downtown, at Ramiken Crucible, Canadian artist Rose Kallal waited for night to fall to begin her performance, Lady of the Lakes.

Four 16 mm films were arrayed in a diamond on one wall, their projectors clicking and purring away from across the room as they looped. Each showed the same work, each slightly out of sync from the others. In the films, a gleaming sword spins smoothly across one frame, and returns moments later in another. Squares and rectangles — all pale yellows and salmon pinks — grow and recede. A body shoots quickly out of a pool of water. An accompanying soundtrack provides one gigantic, sensual, industrial throb — like that of a high-voltage early-sci-fi forcefield or the machinery of some sinister, secretive munitions factory.

As the soundtrack pulsed with disconcerting regularity, Kallal sat down at her drum kit, just below the films, and began stroking her cymbals with padded mallets, building huge waves of metal that shocked the crowd into realizing the show had started. Mark Beasley, the curator at the helm of Performa 11, strode up to a microphone and began reciting long streams of verse, incantations that were almost entirely indecipherable against Kallal's cascades. He faced toward the projections, as if he was addressing them.

Mark Beasley

Joe Denardo, of the Olympia, Washington, noise band Growing, approached the stage next and took up his guitar left handed, sending prickly, jagged loops through a spread of pedals and out into the room. He kept his back to the audience as well, as Beasley sauntered to the back of the room. Like the films, Denardo and Kellal seemed to be playing the same piece, but out of sync, despite being right next to each another. Their parts connected and then collided and then spun apart again.

After roughly twenty minutes, one of the projections shifted suddenly to a pure and brilliant white, blanketing the room with a warm, celestial glow. But it was an accident: one of the films had slipped from its projector. Kallal sprang from her seat and set to fixing it. Beasley returned and offered a few more lines, joined this time by only the films' soundtrack. After a few minutes Kallal switched off the renegade projector, ending the performance as informally and unexpectedly as she had begun it. The other three films continued looping as New York tilted into summer.