|15. 05. 2004 - 06. 06. 2004
A Conjuring / invocation of
Hank Williams & Hank Snow
Kling and Bang gallery 15.May – 6.June 2004
During his term as an instructor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1968 through 1974, David Askevold initiated the now infamous Projects Class. Within this course Askevold invited artists Vito Acconci, Robert Barry, James Lee Bayers, Mel Bochner, N.E. Thing Company, Jan Dibbets, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol Lewitt, Robert Smithson and Lawrence Weiner to send written ideas for collaborative works with the students. This highly unorthodox class became a platform which expanded into a program that saw some of these and other individuals visit the school in Halifax, and moreover, firmly established Askevold himself as a pioneering figure within the formative days of conceptualism.
Recognition, in part, during this period led to Askevold\\\'s inclusion in Lucy Lippard\\\'s seminal text Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, illustrated coverage in Rosalind Krauss\\\' article \\\"Notes on the Index, Seventies Art in America\\\" published in the journal October in 1976, the devotion of the entire April 1975 edition of the German publication Extra to his work, and a spot in the seventh edition of Documenta at Kassel, Germany. More recent exhibitions, such as Reconsidering the Art Object 1965 1975 at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1995 and Seventies: Art in Question at Musee dé art contemporain de Bordeaux in 2002, continue to situate his practice as emblematic of seventies artmaking.
For over three decades David Askevold has exhibited consistently in solo and group settings throughout North America, South America, Asia and Europe. His latest exhibitions include, but are not limited to, New Pictures and Older Videos, Los Angles Contemporary Exhibitions (2001), 7th Lyon Bienalle of Contemporary Art (2003), and the touring exhibition 100 Artists See God (2004), co curated by John Baldessari and Meg Cranston.
While it may be fair to say that David Askevold\\\'s work remains rooted within the traditions of conceptualism, wherein artists looked to dispose of materialism and imposed order, over the years he has critically resisted the trappings of dry, simplistic and purely formulaic strategies of production. Rather than answer to the currents of art historical discourse, his past and present interests transcend conformity. In earlier work he found himself preoccupied with the likes of Johannes Keppler, Franz Anton Mezmer, Levi Straus and Colin Wilson, among others. In more recent investigations, references to Sharon Tate, Hank Snow and Hank Williams, for example, further locate his practice within a space of extravagant quotation and self direction.
For his exhibition Two Hanks at Kling and Bang gallery, David Askevold not only revisits a work initially conceived in the late seventies, as well he finds himself back in Iceland, a country that he visited in 1997 when he exhibited at the Reykjavik Municipal Gallery as part of On Iceland. As an artist and traveler, Askevold once again discovers himself in familiar territory, one that is laden with the reconsideration of themes and places in a greater search for alternative enlightenment.
|Two Hanks, David Askevold
Some Observations and Overviews of a Performance for Video and Photo at
CANADA, 55 Chrystie St. NYC, April 26, 2004
by Aaron Brewer
If it is possible in David Askevold¹s work to name a theme or preoccupation, it would be the significance of coincidence, convergence, overlay, and a speculation on the possibilities afforded by the occult. He has rarely examined this as explicitly as in the performance Two Hanks, a conjuring/invocation of Hank Williams and Hank Snow.
Two Hanks, was originally conceived between 1977 and 1980, as the
performance, The Ghost of Hank Williams, a conjuring/invocation, while
David was teaching in Los Angeles, California. The performance culminated in several drawings which diagrammed in detail the necessary apparatus, structure, atmosphere, and sound. For reasons which are vague, it was never publicly performed. However, the thoroughness of the schematics suggests that David enacted all parts of the performance and likely tried throughout the late seventies in how to fabricate a situation for the ghost of Hank Williams in his house and studio in Venice, CA.
The unseen possibility of the supernatural is the intersection of events which amount to an incident of significant coincidence. Following a supernatural experience is the question of whether or not what has happened has happened, and whether or not it was more than it appeared.
Simultaneous incidents, two or more associated experiences that happen in ostensible concert, are an essential part of the supernatural. The occult is an elaborate sensational overlay of related experiences, that confound an understanding of simple coincidence to the point where doubt, reverie, or inspiration actually become meaning.
Following the death of Hank Snow in 1999, David rewrote The Ghost of Hank Williams, as Two Hanks. The piece, once a celebration of David¹s enthusiasm for Hank Williams, became a tribute to the spirits of two musicians who never played together, who lived opposite lives. It was an ultimate performance to reconcile their differences, and to present them together on the same stage.
Noise is the clashing sound on the other side of harmonizing. It is the difference between two sounds. In the Two Hanks, the noise is their last names, Williams and Snow, and the nature of their lives. The conjuring was contingent on the coincidence of their first names: Hank. This symmetry collapsed into one concurrent call “Hank”.
Two Hanks was performed at the gallery, Canada, in NYC, on April 26th, 2003 for a small audience. The musicians´ differences were manifest in both the theatrical artifice of a performed conjuring, and the theoretical structure necessary to bring in the spirits of Hank Williams and Hank Snow.
Hank Williams, an American, died of a drug and alcohol overdose in the
backseat of his Cadillac, on his way to a concert in Ohio on New Years Day 1953. He was 29. Hank Snow was born in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia, Canada and died in December 1999 at his home in Madison TN. He was 85.
The legend of Hank Williams is of the romantic artist who dies young,
singing from his heart and soul, burning twice as bright for half as long. The story of Hank Snow is about the hard working career musician, distinguished for his longevity, donating his money to charities, and living a healthy sober life.
Hank Williams was called with an audio loop of his Ramblin´ Man, a lament about his rootlessness as a misunderstood soul. Hank Snow was called with the bragging I’ve Been Everywhere, about his hard work and never say die buoyancy.
The songs looped on two cd players. Their volume and overlapping was
manipulated through a mixing board with another line for a microphone.
David inaudibly chanted into it, with the occasionally clear ring, “Hank”. The mixing board ran to a speaker sealed in the end of a 30” x 11.5” x 8” plywood rectangle which became the symbolic channeling tube, with a microphone at the opposite end that relayed the audio through a standing amplified speaker, turned to face the centre of the space. David sat on the edge of the plywood stage, where the spirits were to appear, working the loops, and intermittently hammering on the loosened strings of an amplified red Fender bass guitar.
The sound was somewhere between a machine gun, firecrackers, a thunder storm and a rock and roll drum solo. The powerful flailing on the bass resulted in two bruises on David\\\'s chest, as if he had been hit with a sock full of quarters.
Nearby, the Thereminist, Scott Marshall played variations on the looping songs. The Theremin summarized all of the mysterious parts of the performance. It was the traditional eerie soundtrack of horror film. It was the illusion of conjuring with this musical instrument; its operator was stroking a ghost, manipulating an electrical field. It was the total ambient vibration, the sound combined with the mist and vapor in the room.
Above the 2” (71cm) high and 8” (2.4m) wide raw plywood stage, 2 nets each held a forty pound block of dry ice. The composition of the vapor and mist that would contain the Two Hanks was made differently; David poured beer for Williams and water for Snow over the two blocks. At the performance¹s climax, to celebrate a revelation, David sprayed champagne over both blocks. The beer, water and champagne falling on the stage sounded like applause.
Cigarette smoke from the audience mixed with the evaporating dry ice into a miasma for the supernatural to twist through. Projected into the mist were colored gels and slides of Hank Williams and Hank Snow. The light and fog fell across and into each other, a literal overlay, an analog of the occult.
The dry ice and Theremin became hypnotic ether. The room temperature
dropped. Although the documentation shows light, it was dark, except for the white strobe light and cast colors from the slide projector. It was soothing. It had the calm joy, an air conditioned bar or cold beer. The gallery was entirely cool and serene. The tube/resonator served as a bench, and every part of the gallery but the stage was for the audience. During the exhibition the set up was used as a lounge, with looping videos of the performance.
The Two Hanks video is about the same length as the performance, and while it alternates between cameras, the audio is one continuous uncut track.
Playing over and over, it’s like a hangover. The loops and Theremin are
irritating and harsh, and the flashing strobe light is nauseating. There are few instances where the gravity of the performance is evident as intense pleasure.
The video is shot in night vision. It puts a black light over the night and turns the audience into glowing green eyed demons. Smiles become grimaces; everyone¹s skin is a dead green-white. The elements of Two Hanks are simple: sound, light, material, and structure, holding the image of the moment as the hand held camera wanders through the activity of the performers and audience. They came together into a sensual incident of occult scale and immeasurable time.
It is the nature of the supernatural and the occult to allude understanding, and so it is only the faith or belief of the witness that maintains the integrity of the event.
There is a futility to describing the performance, the difference between actually seeing a ghost and a ghost story. Respectively, one is
phenomenologically transgressive, and one is only as good as the
participating imaginations. But for the group of people who witnessed it there is a necessity to try to recount what they saw towards a demonstration of possibility. But like all things which have the effect of expanding consciousness, they are never how you imagine, they never feel or occur in the way you think they will, and that is by definition their purpose.
Writer’s notes and other observations:
The days prior to the performance were remarkably simple. David would arrive at the gallery in the afternoon, and make brief notes on blank sheets of typing paper, sometimes including small drawings which refereed to a larger drawing that diagramed Two Hanks.
David brought only the essential elements of the performance: tape loops of Hank Williams, Ramblin’ Man, and Hank Snow’s I’ve been everywhere, a diagram of the two hanks performance, a couple of poster announcements, and a sheet of colored gels. The remaining orchestration and organization had an easy pace, like a synthesis of a school dance, a keg party, and a talent show.
This piece had for me conjures the space of the brothel and the karaoke room where there is a kind of performance and privacy, and an individual time. Although it’s delineated, you pay for it in increments and it passes in a peculiarly irrational way. What is that amount of time to celebrate and sing all evening? How many songs are in an evening?
The presence of ghosts in the room was an experience of a bar¹s jukebox light. We play our favorite songs over and over looking for something. They enter the history of ideas about ourselves. The repetition fuses them to time, and they gain or loose meaning as the instant becomes understandable.
The ghosts that appeared on stage were images in clouds, or breathed on glass, or pulling the wet condensation of a drink around a bar’s black table top. It was the sensation the satisfaction of your juke boxes selection, the words you know, it feeds your buzz, it keeps you afloat.
The performance left a residue, mostly jewels and ashes. There was the red Fender bass, and a series of photographs diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald. Their color a matter of exposure time and their synchronicity with the strobe light. They reveal, they flatten the room, and pull faces and images into forms which happened too fast to see live. The plywood stage was stained and scuffed.
The performance¹s success as an invocation is a matter of belief, and all of those who participated, and everyone who will watch the video, will decide for themselves whether what has been suggested is possible or real. But the reality of it as a séance does nothing to the content which the performance explicitly and succinctly explores.
From above the plywood stage and resonator, the long tube construction
looked like a turntable and its needled arm. The piece belongs to a
tradition of conceptualism, but a tradition which is unwritten that includes popular references. Two Hanks needed its b-movie dramatics - its movie posters. A constant thread in David Askevold\\\'s work has been movies, bars, detective stories, popular culture lore, places where large groups share experiences, a secret public. This is not the backroom, it is not demimonde, or even a counter culture. It is a very public community of friendship. The commonalities or the things we share which are commonly sublime, such as music, alcohol, and singing. Two Hanks was not a solo performance, it had the feeling of a sing along, or jamboree, of a party, a bar, a karaoke room. David was the mc and the medium.
Grandagarđur 20 - 101 Reykjavík