V/A - Incantations
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INCANTATIONS is a collection of sixteen visual and sonic experiments centred around the idea of score as spell, curated and produced by Séance Centre’s Brandon Hocura and Naomi Okabe.
A spell and its incantation are distinct, but conjoined by a symbolic, almost umbilical force. A spell is a totem text, a material call for change — a seed, a recipe, an instruction, a potential. The incantation of a spell gives it life, brings breath to body, raises hairs, moves minds. For this project, eight spell-scores were created by visual/text-based artists for a musician/composer to incant. Taking a wide interpretation of what can be considered a score, these works include concrete poetry, collage, painting, drawing, spell-poetry, instructional art, and recipe. The resulting sound works give voice to these evocative “texts”, residing in the liminal space between musical form and magical utterance.
Creating what became the cover artwork for this release, musician and artist Benjamin Kilchhofer conjured salt paintings reminiscent of ancient runes and salt circles — improvised talismans of protection. Translating these expressions into sound using a hydro harp (water drops hitting tuned water-filled porcelain bowls), musician and artist Tomoko Sauvage evokes an embryonic environment, the cleansing and purification of salt water oceans. Artist Mehrnaz Rohbakhsh created a piece that arose from a drawing ritual — a meditation on textile, pattern, and code. In response, Museum Of No Art (Mona Steinwidder) worked her composition by “weaving the piece, layer by layer”. She was “particularly interested in the state one achieves when one works repetitively, stoically and excessively towards a form. Which leads to trance or meditation and creates its own immaterial energy.”
Dani Spinosa, poet of digital and print media, created a typewriter poem that emerged after consulting Hesiod’s “Works and Days and Theogony” to learn more about the witch goddess Hekate. Synchronously, interdisciplinary artist Gavilán Rayna Russom had recently returned to research on Hekate, teaching about the goddess in her class “Queering European Witchcraft Traditions”. Russom spent time with Spinosa’s spell, spoke to Hekate, and then unlocked the gate, seeking to “stir sonic emanations that were radiant, multiple and liminal.”
The side ends with a composition by musician and artist Felicia Atkinson via an instructional text from conceptual artist David Horvitz. What is it like to inhabit the mind of a crow? This simple gesture to befriend a crow, to be in relationship with something other than human implies much more, a re-orientation to our living environment and forms of intelligence.
The B-side opens with electronic composer C.R. Gillespie’s sonic manifestation of a score by bricolage artist Andrew Zukerman. Taking compositional inspiration from the Smiss stone, Zukerman created a collaged visual score on staff paper that hints at the formal aspects of occult symbols and sigils, while remaining obliquely secular. Creating an interlocking tapestry of “Roman gamelan”, Gillespie’s track dramatizes the negotiating power and structure of the abstract score.
Over three days, iconic Canadian poet bill bissett created a jazz-scape painting filled with an ecstatic gathering of eidetic spirits, “connekting trembling xploring serching remote brooding grooving melodee solo lifting n refrain filling.” Immersing himself in the energy of the painting, musician and composer Idris Rahman overlaid three takes of bass clarinet and found that “melodies, textures and harmonies emerged without thought and the piece took on a life of its own.”
As a way to explore the connection between food and music, the curators commissioned a recipe from electronic producer and home chef, Yu Su. Her simple and wholesome pudding recipe lays out instructions for texture and taste that musician Scott Gailey stirs into a sonic caldron of field recordings and electronics. The closing chant, penned by writer and activist adrienne maree brown and incanted by musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland, was the result of a synergistic conversation between the two. The refrain, “surrender to the present moment / what’s coming now is all that’s left” is a mantra reminding us of the power of speech, repetition, and the evanescent nature of temporal experience.
The eight spell cards, inspired by the format of oracle and tarot cards, are invitations for further interpretation and play. To be under a spell is to be lost in a transformation, an alternate reality, to be in collaboration with an unknowable and powerful force. The works in this collection have created a spontaneous and ludic alchemy, courageous attempts to catalyze and spark in our present moment.
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