During the two months that Proficiencies for Living in Ruins was on view at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church in Baltimore, several artists working in the areas of sound, music, and performance art reacted to the installation through the presentation of new, site responsive works. A series of evening and weekend events featured Baltimore-based artists Carrie Fucile, Stephanie Barber, and Tom Boram.
Melissa engaged each of these artists with a prior knowlege of their past works / working styles, and tasked them with creating a new work in response to the installation. Their reactions, performed within the installation, were as follows:
1. Proficiencies for Living in Ruins: Reconcilliation: A sound-based performance by Carrie Fucile.
Fucile's 20 minute performance resembled a lonely ceremony or meditation. The sound element featured the sounds of songbirds, and 5 performers rung church bells from the balcony at multiple points. This artist has a unique style which combines sound creation, body movement, and object manipulation, creating a measured, contemplative result.
Reconciliation is a performance of longing, grief, reckoning, and hope. This ritual looks to the past and prays for the future. It grapples with both personal and collective history while gently attempting to exorcise.
2. Proficiencies for Living in Ruins: Contemplative Opera: Written and organized by Stephanie Barber.
During this one hour, continuous performance, 30 performers, dressed in green, were asked to sing a series of phrases. They gathered in groups with others who were tasked with the same phrase, allowing the resulting melodies to change over time.
A chorus of contemplators will fill the chapel with song, improvising harmonies and counterpoint to melodic lines about the bontanicality of art, humans, and our changing planet.
- The sun goes down on every perspective. The sun indulges our trust in sight.
- What's tentacular when one direction holds the promise of success?
- Green green green, grass leaves and hope...
- Earth holds verticality to expectations, mocking the horizon's perspective.
- How much further from our fingers?
3. Proficiencies for Living in Ruins: Green Frequencies: A pipe organ and light-based performance by Tom Boram.
Boram, an experimental musician and visual artist, utilized the pipe organ in Lovely Lane Chapel, which has been in the church since the building's completion in 1884. He pre-recorded himself playing the organ, then manipulating the resulting sound. He programmed super-bright LEDs using an arduino. These hung inside several of the hanging forms, dimming and flashing in response to the pre-recorded music as he simultaneously played the organ live. The LEDs projected a large shadow through the forms and onto the dome above as he played.
A performance of pipe organ, computer, light, and shadow, Green Frequencies intends to consider the sensual qualities of green as radiant energy - resonating around 550 terahertz. The year 1983 saw the release of both the Misfits' "Earth AD", and the sountrack to the environmentalist art film Koyaanisqatsi, composed by Phillip Glass. The most important tracks from each off these albums are, respectively, "Green Hell", and the main theme, "Koyaanisqatsi". These share a common theme of humans living on an Earth they've poisoned. However, they both suggest a new growth pattern arising from a perspective that this contrived hell on Earth is still defiantly green. A lyric from "Green Hell" asserts that within this greenness we can seek the "Genie of Death" - aka nature - finding each other anew in the pall of technology.
Proficiencies for Living in Ruins is large-scale, site-specific installation by Baltimore-based fiber artist Melissa Webb, Proficiencies for Living in Ruins represents a partnership between the artist, the Institute for Contemporary Art, Baltimore, and Lovely Lane United Methodist Church. Situated inside the dramatic architecture of a currently unused chapel in historic Lovely Lane UMC, this interactive environment explores the human endeavor to operate within a society which has distanced itself from nature in an ever-expanding manner. Utilizing an accumulation of handmade, and manipulated found materials, Webb imagines a future where, in the face of deteriorating environmental and societal stability, humankind and the natural world learn new ways to thrive in symbiosis. Viewers are encouraged to consider their bodies in relation to objects and people within the space — alternately obscuring and revealing, isolating and conspiring.