By Gracielle DeGleize + Shauna Sorenson
No, there are no more abandoned warehouses on the Williamsburg waterfront today—like in the early 90s, when and where artists produced sprawling “immersive” art events. But, “once you’ve tasted that much freedom and scale, it doesn’t leave you,” said artist Jessica Nissen, twenty years later. (In that epoch, her signature works included messy, dripping, green liquid-filled latex surgical gloves and X-Rays).
More recently, Nissen had been looking for a location to stage a sound-art project in New York City, and frustrated by the “hoops one needs to jump through” to find a gallery, she found herself harkening back to those DIY days. It was during a chance meeting with fellow artist, Sasha Sumner, that the two women, who’ve known each other since those seminal days, decided to bring back their old collaborative spirit. Swell Sound & Vision is a big art happening—a themed convergence of technology and art.
The Firehouse Space is a renovated multi-level firehouse station, which has been presenting an eclectic range of classical and jazz concerts since last year. It’s not the down and dirty, rustic space of ‘yore, says Nissen, but Swell Sound & Vision is a rich stew of interactive video and sound. “It’s clean work. We can’t bring in a generator and tear the place apart,” she said, “but we can work with that.”
Among the early Williamsburg immersionists participating are performance artist Myk Henry, whom WG profiled last month [“What’s 3 Minutes of Your Time?”]; Ken Butler performs his sculptural musical instruments; and Sasha Sumner, saxophonist and composer for the Hungry March Band, rolls out with a choreographed investigation of boundaries through a game of pool, via video installation, and performance. Her performance partner, Nadia Menco appears via Skype.
The artist Brent Felker parlays Skype chatting into a visual and sound art form; Stephanie Koseff, alters the environment with video projections into a bathroom sink and onto a stairwell. Even the kitchen is commandeered during the event. Michael Evans creates an edible soundscape as he cooks an amplified meal.
Swell Sound & Vision takes over the firehouse’s two levels. The participating dozen plus artists have elegantly organized a cacophony of “interactivity, art, technology and performance.”
“It’s unusual to get to see this kind of show in a fun and intimate setting,” says Sumner, adding, “This show has the potential to be both the birth and rebirth of an artists’ collective.”
“Anybody who shows up can wander through the space and choose to be part of anything going on. There are also scheduled moments, highlighting each of the installations, kind of like ‘everybody’s 15 minutes of fame,’” says Nissen.
“Come with an open mind, because there will be many opportunities to be more than just the observer,” she says.
The Hungry March Band will be the final live performance of the show and will kickoff the after party.
Swell Sound & Vision
The Firehouse Space
246 Frost Street, East Williamsburg
Saturday, April 6th
8-11pm ($10 including after party.)