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Series in collaboration
MACK + Erased Tapes

Concept by Claudine Boeglin

Shards is ‘made up of 3-D scans by Director Josha Eiffel who pieced up together alien moments of interaction; exploring the tenderness and aggression of them.’ [Video Unrest, courtesy of ErasedTapes]. Thumbnail from book Oobanken by Jerome Ming [MACK].
“… The camera flash is instantaneous and much stronger than daylight. But all this light plunges the world into night, or moonlight. The world appears as an illuminated stage. Everything seems to be happening at the end of the day. Just when the world should be sleeping, it offers a heightened performance of itself. We never really see people or places: we see the light they reflect. And the quality of that light affects how we understand them…”

David Campany (fragment from intro of book Scene by Alex Majoli)

Photographers and musicians share the edge of a stage. In the theatre of the real, the intimacy of a music studio, the house of others, on the live stages of history and entertainment, they interact with their subjects and fans, some engaging from a distance, some crossing the pit to plunge into the crowd; both loaded with the visceral and sensorial experiences they shape and share with many. In both fields, the content builds flows.

Serpentine is a conceptual winding path and celebration of curatorial independence in photography and music.

The project invites two major cultural labels to share on their choices in a playful collaboration.

It brings together the art book publishing house MACK founded by Michael Mack in 2010 with the music label Erased Tapes created by Robert Raths in 2007, to cross-reference photography and music, highlighting the path taken by the two over a decade.

London-based, Mack & Raths are in many aspects ‘spiritual twins’ in their bold and successful support of seminal authorship. By interlacing and weaving together the artwork they have supported, Serpentine aims to immerse audiences in a sensoryscape composed with visuals and sounds – expressed through installations, performances and in conversations.

Throughout the project, the act of curating will itself become reflective. Should the content be mixed through the poetry of algorithmic randomness? Should it be a tennis table game of two brains entangled? Should artists on each side be invited to play? Could the audience have an active role? There are multiple possibilities to be imagined.

Serpentine could be non-linear. Interchange / constellation / mindmap. One pathway could see the founders hand-pick artwork that says the most about themselves. Another could be pairing artists through subjects for which they have an affinity and friction in vision. Another could be computer generated via algorithmic queries building a pathway with a life of its own – a jazz improv experience.

The combinations are in essence infinite. The content excavation in such experiments might even surprise the content producers themselves.

As often with concepts, something read or heard creates a ricochet. Michael Mack was asked to share his ‘most-prized books’ by Is Nice That. When reading the paragraph below:

“I am fortunate to do what I do and this slim erudite volume [Robert Calasso: The Art of the Publisher] wonderfully encapsulates the possibilities of such a professional life, one in which the ultimate aim is that “all books published by a certain publisher could be seen as links in a single chain, or segments in a serpentine progression of books, or fragments in a single book.”

… a serpentine was taking shape in my head made of two wild spirits chasing each other.
Where to begin?
I would suggest meeting and conversing with Robert on his vision, the artists chosen, the albums produced and on his vision of the label’s trajectory. Then I would wrap into the music with his recommended playlist. For MACK, if possible, I’d like to first be left to browse solo throughout the MACK collection – at least for what is physically accessible among the 500+ MACK books, to study each composition flow and in retrospect delve on what forms the MACK matrix.

I always felt, in the choice of his artists, the size of the books, that MACK books were more of an album than a traditional photo or art book, and with that premise, I would experience the collection as a whole. Then I could meet Michael with my findings, for the missing clues.

With the wealth of information collected on each side and agendas streamlined for an encounter, Mack & Raths could sit down and trajectories would be evoked.

There is no doubt something unique will emerge from the furrows of each archive. Intersections will form. Collective memories will be teased. Genuine discovery will be experienced. Installations pairing soundtracks and visual experiences will be conceived, tested and rehearsed with first rounds of active audiences. When fully tuned, the circus could travel from stage to stage along talks, special guests, and variations of scenography.

The unpredictable encounter might even seed future stories in collaboration.
The project could initially deploy on two fields: physical and digital.

The physical display could be a recorded performance with either central or disseminated ‘habitats’ made of four screens forming a cube or more. Each would form a collective cocoon in which the audience seated or lying on soft structures, would experience combined visuals and sounds.

Segments of music could be interlaced in closed or open loops. Soundtracks could deploy in space with photography conversing from a screen to another. Moods and tempo would shift, and at time, silence would itself form reflective respirations where people would look at each other, intrigued; together enclosed in the invisible architecture of a collective memory. People could via smartphones have a role to play if audience interaction is wanted.
The project could ignite a series of talks where artists in duo physically or via screens, could share their creative process, their intentions and resources; the ethical and social engagements enclosed in their production. They could share what made each adventure possible, peculiar and unmissable. For audiences fond of music and visual arts, this would be a goldmine of thrilling discoveries.

The new geography is cultural.

What defines us and builds our memories, our social and cultural spine, are what we choose to be exposed to much more now than our roots and provenance. From the books we flip through and the ones we acquire, the playlists we craft, the food choices we trace in real life and online, and our identity and profile, we constantly re-write, re-invent ourselves.

The live events we attempt builds myriads of memories and the way we spend money is the data coveted by tech companies wishing to crawl in our post-post-modern brain systems, defined by what we see, listen to, produce, consume, share and are immersed in.
The physicality of the book and the vinyl as mirroring objects could themselves play in serpentine. Artworks placed side-by-side could compose a geography stretching spatially and seeding new rounds of collaborations. The object, book or vinyl, tells a story through the choice of the cover, and so many book titles could be songs.

How playful a constellation of titles would be as an interactive wall or an app-based blind test: Scene, We Are on the Edge, I Know How Furiously your Heart is Beating, Lines of Sight, A shimmer of Possibilities, ZZYZX, Encores… Book or Album?

Lines blur. Music and photography are made of poetry and story flows and know no borders in language other than institutional dogma. And it is the independence that builds the experiments.
The question is always: how to get there?
With encounters, physically / digitally, a series of conversations.

For the digital platform, I have developed a series of prototypes that could be introduced as indicators of what is possible online. The project will require its business plan and financing system; its communication platforms. As a small pool of producers, we can achieve each step through thrilling ideas and exchanges.

A budget / partnership would give us ways to drumbeat the concepts to be supported by talents in set design, interactive design and dissemination. And to anchor serpentine mostly around archives avoids the budgets required for commissioned work. Later in evolution, they could be seeded – most likely via hosting institutions.
So many cultural events could be hosting the project. For installations and conversations, spaces like Barbican, Tate Modern, Whitechapel, Photographers’ Gallery, Hayward Gallery Southbank Centre etc. would be suitable. For the experience, music venues could be approached as well as festivals in both fields.

And to delve on Serpentine as a cultural geography, how amazing it could be to stretch an invisible fil rouge over Brooklyn, playing bits at PS1, others on Bushwick’s rooftops, the core of it at Pioneer Works, Red Hook, and BAM, … The display itself could be conceptually designed to connect institutions for once, rather than divide.

In January 2020, the International Center of Photography will open on Essex and Ludlow in the Lower East Side, and Aperture will have sorted its future real estate ambitions. Manhattan can be ‘occupied territories’ and so could be Luma in Arles – a polymorphic and polyphonic platform set to mix creative languages.
MACK is the London-based independent art and photography publishing house founded in 2010 by Michael Mack. He has written, designed, edited and produced nearly 500 titles including some of the defining art books of the past 20 years. In 2012 MACK Books established the First Book Award, a photography publishing prize open to photographers who have not previously had a book published by a third-party publishing house in order to support emerging photographers. [Source: It’s Nice That]

Founded by the German-born Robert Raths in 2007, Erased Tapes has been nurturing and shaping avant-garde music for a decade now. Home to the likes of Douglas Dare, Nils Frahm and Masayoshi Fujita, among others, the label’s artists might explore the worlds of post rock, ambient electronica and modern classical composition, but they all orbit around a shared love of hypnotic melodies and sonic innovation. When moving in their new office near in Victoria Park, “For the first time, we can show people what we’re about spiritually and politically as well as musically.” … think of this oral history as a whistle-stop tour of the last ten years, from Erased Tapes’ first EP with Rival Consoles, through the construction of a genre-defining roster of ambient and avant-garde musicians, to their recent move to East London. [Source: Loud and Quiet Interview]

More links for Erased Tapes
© Dandy Vagabonds 2019