Kill Your Timid Notion
The flicker man
Combining sound and vision is nothing new, says Neil Cooper, looking forward to the sensory bombardment of another Kill Your Timid Notion.
Since its first outing in 2003, Kill Your Timid Notion’s four editions have mixed and matched sound and vision and utilised the Dundee Contemporary Arts gallery space to the maximum. This year KYTN goes even further, with a large-scale exhibition running for three weeks before the festival.
Norway’s Kjell Bjorgeengen and the late American artist Paul Sharits work with ‘flicker’ – cinematic installations that transform the galleries into intense theatres of light. Where Bjorgeengen creates harsh, black-and-white flicker videos inspired by live music, Sharits specialised in turning musical ideas into visual imagery through his colour flicker films. Together, they usher in a music programme that promises to be equally demanding.
‘I hate it when people walk into art galleries and it’s so easy to go from work to work,’ Bjorgeengen mourns from his Oslo base. ‘They can see one thing and comment on it, then move on to the next thing. There’s no real physical input with it. With flicker-based work, you have to go through some kind of threshold. That can produce negative results, but I want to go beyond a passive way of viewing things.’
Bjorgeengen has been working with flicker for six years, primarily at the Experimental Television Centre in New York, developing an increasingly sophisticated approach partly led by the technology available. ‘You have to go into some kind of dialogue with it to make it do what you want,’ Bjorgeengen says. ‘Through that, my work has become more complex and more layered.’
KYTN has explored similar landscapes in previous line-ups particularly via the presence of Tony Conrad, a collaborator with Velvet Underground members in Theatre of Eternal Music. His 1966 film, The Flicker, shown alongside the straight cinema version of Sharits’ Epileptic Seizure Comparison in 2006, may have been similarly provocative, but Bjorgeengen is reluctant to make any comparison.
Sharits’ piece is an emotionally charged work dating from 1976 that provokes even more extreme physical reactions. In its recently restored version, being presented at KYTN as an installation as the artist intended, it can now be regarded as one of the most provocative pieces of underground cinema of its era.
As well as being one of Norway’s leading contemporary artists, Bjorgeengen is a musician and long-time collaborator with the likes of guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Joelle Leandre and regular visitor to these parts, Keith Rowe. During the KYTN weekend itself, Bjorgeengen and Rowe will perform with another improv veteran, violinist Phillip Waschmann. Whatever the result, viewers senses look set to be bombarded on every level.
‘Some people hate it,’ Bjorgeengen laughs, ‘and some people love it. It’s hard not to make a stand. People sometimes see things in works like this that they haven’t seen before, and a lot of this kind of work has lots of meta-narrative. This is a lot more basic.’
Kill Your Timid Notion Exhibition – Kjell Bjorgeengen and Paul Sharits, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Fri 19 Sep-Sun 12 Oct.