Friday, July 2, 2010

Review of Cruizn' by DJ Glendening

OPS/FuturePast by Daniel J Glendening

Last Thursday evening I attended a performance by the Oregon Painting Society at Appendix space in Portland. I’ve seen a few of OPS’ projects in the past; they are usually intriguing, but also a little confusing. There are elements that can be dissected, but somehow when placed in conjunction things feel confused.

The performance on Thursday consisted of several young men and women of the group making noises with their constructed art-objects/instruments. There was a woman with a spinning wheel, a man with an object that resembled in shape a bed, the top surface covered with wood paneling laminate and several light switches/dimmers he was manipulating to make sounds, a man with what may have been some sort of Theremin, though I’m not sure, and in the rear at one side of the group a woman with black gloves wired up to something, and across the room a man with two black rods that looked something like microphones and something like aircraft controllers light-up rods. There were other objects as well, filling out the set. Several of the members were dressed in all black, with thick black sunglasses, like an 80’s future-techno band, or the robot kid from Wet Hot American Summer. Some of the members were dressed in regular street clothes.

Like I said earlier, there are elements that can be sifted out. There is what seems to be a noise band, not terribly different than many other noise bands, who use circuit bending to make machines to make noises and perform without much of a structure but a reveling in the manipulation of technology and the bodily sensations of sound/noise. There are the references to futurism, to a future that never occurred. There are also references to representations of the past, in the wood paneling and the spinning wheel, to the idealized bohemian era of the late 60s/early 70s.

What these all mean when mashed up together, though, I’m not sure.

I was born in the early 80s. I grew up in a small town in northern California. I didn’t really listen to the radio much, but I remember my dad’s record collection, and “Fire on the Mountain” and “Across the Great Divide” playing on the radio in his black Ford pickup. We had a small black-and-white television for a good chunk of my childhood; we got a color television with turning knob channel selectors when I was maybe nine, inheriting it from my great aunt who passed away. We still only received about five channels, though.

I remember getting our first computer, a gift from my uncle. It was large and bulky, and its screen was black with green text. I only remember playing a game on it, which was a largely text-based dungeons and dragons-esque adventure. We upgraded the computer when I was in eighth grade, I think. It was in color! We could get the Internet!

Cable television is unavailable at the house I grew up in, because of its location, but my parents installed one of those miniature satellites shortly after I left for college. My brother is seven years younger than I, and was, thus, roughly 11 when I left for college. More so than I (but probably less so than some of his peers) he grew up with the Internet, cable television, and the rest. There is, I think, a fundamental difference in the ways in which I and those my brother’s age approach the internet, social networking, cell phones, etc. There seems to be a freedom and fluidity in the ways in which some approach social networking sites like facebook or MySpace, in which the walls between private and public lives dissolve and disappear. This is the generation of the mash-up, the re-mix, and the diary confessional as public discourse. This is what has borne the work of artists like Ryan Trecartin, who filters queer/punk identity through the aesthetic sensibility of the Internet and MTV.

All that aside, however, there is something exciting happening in the work of Oregon Painting Society. They seem to exist in an amorphous state, both a band and an art collective, but at the same time neither. There is a sense of revisiting the past in order to imagine the future, or conversely, visiting the future in order to reimagine the past. In many ways, we’re a culture that is stuck waiting for a future that never arrived, or is late to arrive, and we’re just hoping to avoid devastation long enough to bear witness to the manifestation of the promises which were made decades ago of a cooperative world in which everyone zips around in flying cars and goes on dates with robots and women with three breasts.

Make some noise; it’s still night in America.

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