Drift in Japan
Anyone going to see it today? Jim will be there too!
Other events on
April 15, 2007
Lee Ranaldo (music)] & Leah Singer (film)
Special guest: tenshi to koukotsu
Lee Ranaldo, musician, writer, and visual artist, is an original member of the group Sonic Youth. Formed in 1981 in New York City, the group has recorded and played around the world since that time. Since the early 1990s visual artist and filmmaker Leah Singer has performed worldwide using modified film projectors and 16mm motion picture film that she shoots with a still 35mm camera.
DRIFT is an immersive sonic/visual environment consisting of music, sounds and texts by Ranaldo in response to two 16mm analytical film projectors performed in real time by Singer. Much as a DJ scratches a vinyl record, Singer manipulates her films in a live improvisation with Ranaldo's guitar, poetry and soundscapes.
DRIFT official site
Supported by Smash West, UPLINK, Tomoo Gokita, Jim O'Rourke
Flyer Design: Tetsuya Nagato
some photos and a brief review-here.
thanks for the link moshe.
nice avatar you have there. no more WM pic. no?
Yes. I'm a radical guy. I change my avatar every year :)
Goodness, Moshe's reached 1,000 posts! What took you so long?
DRIFT: audio visual synergies
27 Apr 2007
For their DRIFT DVD, Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer used split screen techniques to put two very different images next to each other and let the audience have their own experience out of this combination.
On April 15th, poet and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo and visual artist and filmmaker Leah Singer came finally to Tokyo’s Super Deluxe for their experimental DRIFT DVD. Although the work has been shown all over the world since 1991, we hadn’t had a chance yet to see it in Japan! At the venue, two projectors displayed images on a split screen to be overlapped by sound and poetry… Really, everyone in the crowded and overheated place was completely intoxicated with its fantastic world. PingMag luckily had a chance to talk to the couple about DRIFT.
Written by Ryoko
Photos by Sebastian Mayer
Translated by Junko
Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo and filmmaker Leah Singer at Tokyo’s Super Deluxe.
First, when did you two start working together?
Leah: Around the time we first met, there were a lot of small clubs in New York and many people were trying improvisation. I was one of them, projecting my images along with the improvised performance. Sometime in 1989, I happened to work as a curator for the Handmade Musical Instrument Festival at the Knitting Factory in New York. There, I found Lee playing with images, and we became friends. Afterwards we decided to work together, and it has been going on since then.
What made you think of creating DRIFT?
Leah: For our live performances Lee improvises along with my created images, and I can say that DRIFT is a compilation of our 15-year long history. When we held our exhibition in NY in November last year we got an offer to produce this DVD.
Lee explains: “Different things come to the surface and drift away, then others come up… I think it is a sort of meditation. Each person has both a different vision and a background that gives him/her different feelings or ideas when coming across something…”
Would you tell us a little more about your special improvised performances?
Lee: We only have a rough idea when we play. At each performance, we change the order of films, the content of the text, and the sound we make. In that way, we can always have fun with our discoveries. First we arrange the main element, such as images and sound, and then play around with them. We really enjoy seeing what comes out by accident.
Split screen to let the viewer make up his own connection about the images.
Lee: Experimental music is part of the New Yorker music history, and we originally wanted to see what happens if we mix the experimental with other elements. For example, music overlapping on my poem… I mean, we wanted to create different kinds of layers, like layers of sound, layer of words, and music layers, of course…. for the audience to appreciate the same material in different ways. One might watch an image while another looks at the player, and the others might listen to the music…
“We only have a rough idea when we play. At each performance, we change the order of films, the content of the text, and the sound we make,” Lee says.
Leah: Also, my old projector brings us fun accidents and sometimes produces unexpected effects. For once, we choose performance as a way of conveying our ideas to give the audience the freedom of catching the meaning by themselves. Neither we do story telling, nor do we play a movie with a story. It’s more abstract, like poetry or Haiku.
What did you discover accidentally then?
Leah says: “…I got an idea of the ‘faded glory’ or ‘faded beauty’ from the doll, and this ’sounds-like Hollywood’ Las Vegas picture derives from my memory.”
Leah: There is a scene where two black-and-white images are shown together, one of a doll and the other is a picture of Las Vegas. They weren’t intended to put together at first. However, I’m attracted to something that has a completely different character within… ambiguity, I would say. I like something lovely but scary, or something sad but fun… that kind of thing. Dolls are usually lovely and to be treated with care, aren’t they? But the one I found on a street in New York was so miserable, and I couldn’t help taking a picture of it. Afterwards, I somehow thought of putting this picture next to the Las Vegas picture. That’s because I got an idea of the faded glory or faded beauty from the doll, and this sounds-like Hollywood Las Vegas picture derives from my memory.
“There was a walking man just before me, and that was when the images of the man and of the shoes’ owner tied together in my head!” says Leah.
So the doll and Las Vegas somehow connected in your head?
Leah: At that point, yes. For example, the images of shoes and Lee’s poem called Richard were put together in the same way. These shoes were neatly put on a step of a street, and I wondered: Why on earth did the owner left these shoes like this? What happened to him? As I took the picture, I was imagining many stories about the shoes. Then, there was a walking man just before me, and that was when the images of the man and of the shoes’ owner tied together in my head!
Lee: My poem Richard is about my university friend whom I haven’t seen for a long time. We overlapped this poem onto the images of the shoes and the walking man, and guess what? The man became Richard to us.
“Why on earth did the owner left these shoes like this? What happened to him?”
Leah: Even between completely different things there is a synergy or connection. And, it is you to find out about it. If you put this broken fire engine photo next to the shoe photo, you’ll see another story. Lee and I found this fire engine when we were driving in the countryside. Who in the world brought this truck to such a place, and how? we thought. Comparing these two photos, I see some connection, like a pair of shoes and a pair of tires, right?
Another combination of images to result in a connection - or friction.
The film, Mother and Child, was originally just an image of a pleasing parent and her child that one of my friends shot long time ago. I re-shot the film with reversed colors, and that gave kind of a negative impression. Also, by projecting it with a slow rotation, it even became a cruel scene as if the mother was pushing her child. I thought it was really interesting that one thing could give a totally opposite impression or meaning.
Stills from ‘Mother and Child’, re-shot in reverse colors.
Lee: That is totally what DRIFT is like, because you kind of drift through it. Different things come to the surface and drift away, then others come up… I think it is a sort of meditation. Each person has both a different vision and a background that gives him/her different feelings or ideas when coming across something. In short, one thing might be understood in millions of ways depending on who you are.
Leah: I want to ask the audience how they felt about our work. I’m interested in what story they would create as our works don’t have any certain story. The important thing is what you think and feel about it.
Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer.
In DRIFT, the 9/11 motif you used gives almost the strongest impression. What was your personal experience with that event?
Leah: When it occurred, we were sending our children to school. Our home was only three blocks away from the site. Therefore, it was possible that the building fell on us. It was a really horrible experience and also so real. But we managed to drive away to a safe place. And because of the huge impact, I was unable to take any pictures for a while except the one I took when we escaped.
Lee: We returned to New York from my mother’s place a month later. There was still fresh evidence the event left in the city: buildings had collapsed, smoke was still going up, and there were a lot of soldiers with guns… But people tried to live their usual lives in such a situation…. One day afterwards, I went out to buy the paper, and I looked at it: it was, in fact, September 11th. Memories of the fearful experience flashed back to my head, and I thought: Who would read the paper when people are desperately trying to survive?
New York is our home, the place where we live. Many things were written about it, but nobody mentioned a pile of shoes left there. I wanted to write something from a different point of view and created a poem based on this experience.
The ticker-tape parade gave Leah a horrible 9/11 flashback.
Leah: We live on Broadway, famous for its ticker-tape parade. It’s a celebration parade where confetti is scattered from buildings. You might have seen it on TV when the Yankees win the championship, for instance. We live close to the street, and I usually shoot the parade while sitting on our roof. One day, I was looking over the pictures I had taken. Suddenly I had a 9/11 flashback. One reminded me of a scene on that said day where a lot of paper was whirling in the air. Then I thought of combining Lee’s poems with this image. Humans often experience this: something works as a trigger and they remember an incident in a completely unrelated situation.
A sequence with black-and-white images…
… what do you feel if you see that?
Leah: These two pictures were taken before 9/11. The World Trade Center used to be a landmark for our orientation, always told us where we were. I’d even forgotten about these pictures, but now they mean something different for us. It’s kind of a tribute to the building - and our personal history, too. A history to be told and inherited to our children and descendants. So, this is not really about terrorism.
The works of…
… and the married couple during the PingMag interview.
Finally, do you want to say something to our readers?
Lee: Keep your eyes and ears open to see all these things and make your own conclusions. You should make just your own connection, kind of emotional and like a journey. Then, please let us hear your opinion on our DVD and performances.
Leah’s and Lee’s audio visual performance at Super Deluxe this April.
Performance at Super Deluxe (Photo by Martine Cotton)
Performance at Super Deluxe (Photo by Martine Cotton)
Leah’s and Lee’s performance was held three days after the interview. There, Leah’s images looked to me very humane and warm, just like she said: I project images like playing the guitar. The words Lee read were very powerful, and the improvisation sounded as if he was calling out his mind. I felt free during their performance, and enjoyed having all sorts of feelings inside.
Anyone who has seen their work or performances, please let us know your thoughts about it. We don’t need to mention that Lee and Leah are looking forward to reading it…
And finally, thanks, Sebastian Mayer, for those marvellous picts he took of Leah and Lee! Yes, that Sebastian which was featured at PingMag before…
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