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Kamau Amu Patton Discusses “An Evening of Durational Sounds” at Lisa Cooley

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Stepping into “An Evening of Durational Soundsat Lisa Cooley was not like walking into just any gallery. The nearly pitch-black room was made maneuverable only by slivers of light shining dimly throughout the gallery that created wave-like patterns on the walls. We cautiously moved through the space, trying to avoid grazing or stepping on the artwork as fog flowed from machines, making visibility even more difficult. 

All this was part of Kamau Amu Patton’s, a master of light and sound, performance of durational sounds that took place July 10. It was organized in conjunction with the visual adventure that is “Eric’s Trip,curated by Cynthia Daignault and Mark Loiacono

Stills shot by Otto Arsenault of Kamau Amu Patton’s “An Evening of Durational Sounds” at Lisa Cooley

As we moved through the gallery, sights set on the video projector in the back of the space displaying Patton’s motion-controlled kinetic light work Color Fields, the artist kept the room vibrating with lengthy tones and ambient noises. 

Whitewall caught up with Patton to discuss Color Fields and how he chose the sounds for both this recent performance and others.

WHITEWALL: What was the role of Color Fields as far as its relationship with “Eric’s Trip?” How do you see your piece fitting with the theme of narrating consciousness?

KAMAU AMU PATTON: The Color Fields video projections move through a spectrum of colors, slowly dissolving from one to the next and periodically wiping to full-spectrum white light. The video was presented with thre projectors in a haze-filled room. As the light shifts in the gallery, shadows change color, after-images happen, objects in the room reflect and refract light.

I feel like the piece resonates with the themes of the show. The title, “Eric’s Trip,”refers to Reel 9 of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966), “Eric Tells All.” The use of colored light is really central to the scene. There were a lot of important experiments happening with light, color, and consciousness in the sixties. Marian Zazeela is a person that comes to mind as a central figure who produced light shows in the scene back then.

WW: How do you choose particular sounds?

KAP: The sounds for my compositions come from a variety of sources. Some sounds come from oscillators that I build. I use photoelectric cells and light to frequency converters to generate sound from light. I record and process the sounds of exhaust fans, cars idling, the sound of wind blowing, underwater sounds —it’s endless. For the piece at Lisa Cooley Gallery, I used sounds recorded onto a quarter-inch magnetic tape and performed using a reel-to-reel player. I like what the tape does to the quality of the sounds. I think it warms them up. With the tape machine I can control pitch and direction of play. A lot of the sounds in the piece were recordings played in reverse. Also, I used live mixer feedback. Working with feedback live is total chaos so, in some ways, the sounds choose you.

WW: What inspires a piece like this? 

KAP: When I do performance pieces, the location tends to be the primary inspiration. For me it’s about finding a way to resonate with the space and open a dialog. Once I feel in sync with the situation, a transformation can happen. “Eric’s Trip”is a group show and I really like the way the works are installed and how they speak to each other. So, the challenge was to figure how to engage with the installation and try to bring it to another place.

“Eric’s Trip” is on view at Lisa Cooley through August 1. 



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Kelly Wearstler




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