Lucas Abela is the co-winner of the Tin Sheds Gallery Innovate/Curate Exhibition and Grant. He is working with Hirofumi Uchino on an ambitious new sound installation Mix Tape.
“The world today belongs to machines. We live among machines, they help us do everything, to work and to enjoy ourselves. But what do we know about their moods, their nature?” Bruno Munari “Manifesto of Machinism,” 1952
Synchresizer is the outcome of a new creative collaboration with a machine. It is a synaesthetic investigation into Machinism through explorations with an analogue video/audio synthesizer and a continuation of a body of work studying concepts of ‘machine vision’ in a creative electronic art practice.
Don’t miss these awesome exhibitions – both opening at 6pm at Tin Sheds Gallery on Thursday, June 2 .
Interview with Lucas Abela for The Sheds.
Tin Sheds Gallery: You have just installed the insanely ambitious remake of the Vinyl Arcade Project, first exhibited in Sydney as part of the NIME Conference in 2010, at the Donau Festival Exhibition in Krems, how did this go?
Lucas Abela: Breathtakingly exhaustive.
Tin Sheds Gallery: How do you see works such as Vinyl Arcade and Mix Tape relating to your previous performance work as Justice Yeldham? What prompted your move into installation?
Abela: Its weird that I’m now doing these installations using ideas I had years and years ago when I was predominately using turntables and to a lesser extent tapes to make music back on Radio Skid Row in ‘92 ‘93. Back then I used these materials to create montage radio with lots of stuff playing at once and some sound manipulation etc. From here I started exploring working with tapes and turntables differently and after a while I had got away from the turntable all together and was playing motors for decks with knives for styli. This was around ‘95 and at around this time I came up with the idea for my first installation, the Vinyl Arcade, I wanted to drive remote control cars over records. However, back then I was dead broke, living in my van, so could never afford such an extravagant installation and stuck to utilising free disposed of parts of discarded turntables that were easily found on the streets as the CD revolution took hold.
Ironically it was this cheapness that led to the ultimate cheap instrument: a broken sheet of glass. And with this instrument I made my mark playing as Justice Yeldham. Its success helped me come full circle, 16 or so years later, where I’m now in the fortunate position of being funded for my more extravagant earlier ideas.
So to answer your question, yes and no, obviously these installations are as far removed from my performances as possible, but if it weren’t for my successes as Justice Yeldham these works would have probably never happened.
Tin Sheds Gallery: Can you explain the idea behind your project for Tin Sheds Gallery Mix Tape?
Abela: Well it’s a situation piece where hundreds of tapes will be strung up into the gallery space via helium balloons, creating an aerial sculptural installation. The audience will be able to play snippets of these tapes on exposed playback heads built into plinths around the room: These wont just be just single tape heads, I’m talking multiple tape heads so that multiple parts of the tape are played at once building up quite a cacophony of sound.
Tin Sheds Gallery: In an increasingly digital world what inspired you to work such an obsolete technology as the cassette tape?
Abela: Because its real and tactile. Imagine if I tried to do the same work with suspended CD’s playing on lasers mounted onto the plinths: first of all it wouldn’t work and second it wouldn’t be as much fun as exploring tapes in this manner. I don’t know about young people today but for my generation Mix Tapes were such an important way of finding out about music (before the P2P age where you could steal the work of any artist at whim and then discard it just as quickly). These tapes were part of the slow and arduous process of discovering new music – stuff that Donny Southerland or Molly Meldrum weren’t trying to flog.
I discovered no wave because a mate’s uncle thought I’d like it and made me a tape (and not cause last FM recommended teenage Jesus and the Jerks because I like the Birthday Party). It is such a f****d world today no wonder music has ceased to be interesting. There is nothing exciting about how the underground music scene operates anymore: the mystery has gone it is all cool handshakes and fixed gear bicycles these days.
Tin Sheds Gallery: But why tapes?
Abela: Back when I made my stylus gloves in the mid 90’s I toyed with the idea of making the same kind of thing but with tape heads. So again the idea was there, then I noticed Tin Sheds was looking for curators to explore exhibiting in innovative and new ways I thought why not curate peoples tapes and have multiple play back stations for the audience to play with them… and then I thought why not string the tapes form the ceiling with helium balloons and have the tape exposed so it can be played on tape heads mounted onto plinths.
Tin Sheds Gallery: It is almost obligatory these days for galleries and festivals to include elements of audience interaction. How real do you think this is? How will Mix Tape aim to actually involve the audience in the simultaneous outcomes of music creation and enjoyment?
Abela: I haven’t seen too many good examples of interactive art where the work is real in the sense of its interactiveness, but to be honest don’t know the field that well being from a musical performance background. The stuff I have seen, or supposedly interacted with, was in my mind not interactive at all – more like something with a predisposed outcome that everybody has a carbon copy experience of. What I’m hoping to do with Mix Tape and Vinyl Arcade is to give people more tangible experiences where each individual audience member has a personal experience with the work, one where they are in control of the art and what will happen. Obviously the experiences of the participants will be similar but I hope the idiocentric nature of each individual will carry through into what happens when they interact with the work.
Tin Sheds Gallery: What kind of sounds do you want to hear coming out of your mix tape room?
Abela: Warbled tape sounds intermixed with laughing and the occasional burb.
Tin Sheds Gallery: You have described Mix Tape as a mash-up, what makes your take on the mash-up interesting?
Abela: Well I used that term loosely, in a more tongue in cheek way. What I’m doing here isn’t really a mash up of songs, it’s more a mash up of sound snippets from various sources, mixed by participants to the point that its not really mash up at all: a better way to describe it would be a tactile interactive music concrete.
Images: Vinyl Arcade installation NIME Conference, Sydney, 2010.
This project has been supported by the Australia Council Music Board NEW WORK (MEDIA ARTS) creative development grant: