Third Coast Filmless Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art

MK Meador

Without making it sound too much like a circus, this year’s Filmless Festival had programming that featured transgender eight year olds, a traveling electric chair and one man’s (pipe)dream of a suicide mission to Mars. It was really something else to sit in a darkened room with an auditorium full of people and just, well… listen. I came in search of sound art, but left knowing a whole lot more about sound, hearing and listening in general.

Ira Glass rants, Analog Tape art and an Audiophonic Saturday afternoon

The highlight for me was the uncharacteristically frenetic soapbox moment from none other than Ira Glass. When asked about the difficulties of producing creative content with social media and HTML poised to get in the way, his voice raised and he feverently proclaimed that “this is the best time to be creative… it’s just the economy that’s fucking everything up”. The audience responded accordingly, after all, when a peon of public radio breaks out an expletive, it’s the one thing that inevitably gets lost in translation, even with the most progressive of radio programming. On the whole, his speech was a great rally for all creative types in general and Glass was his usual blend of funny, personable and idiosyncratic.

Andrew O’Connor’s Frequent Mutilations

Amid the audiophiles and NPR fans gathered in the lobby of the MCA Theater, sound artist Andrew O’Connor toiled away with his performance-installation, Frequent Mutilations. With the primary colored Sol LeWitt triptych backdrop and bushels of slick magnetic tape clutter, O’Connor moved constantly for hours on end cutting archive tape and splicing in new material. The result was layered composition that ranged from ambient sounds to louder experimental timbres. His rig was positioned directly between the two theater doors and as audience members came and went, the arrangement seemed to function like headphones – yet instead of sounds, it suggested the movement of people in stereo. It was during the festival’s sold out final session that radio producer Roman Mars expressed gratitude for the installation outside. He even acknowledged that members of his own staff were unfamiliar with the old school analog ways of radio’s past.

And for those not familiar with the realm of sound art radio, Frequent Mutilations was a pioneer of radio art programming. Running for some 24 years, this weekly program featured an hour of audio art compositions on the Canadian station CKMS FM.

White/Light (Matt Clark and Jeremy Lemos) and Untitled, 2010

Running for the month of March in the MCA’s UBS Gallery is an untitled installation from the duo known as White/Light. The artists, Matt Clark and Jeremy Lemos, arranged speaker cabinets and Victoria amplifiers around the darkened room with a central microphone in spotlight. White/Light will accompany various performances throughout the month of March and the schedule can be viewed on the MCA site. The inaugural show on Saturday pulled audio from the preview of Roman Mars’ One Way Ticket to Mars.

Not yet a week old, check out Third Coast’s brand new site for great audio archives and recap of the festival.
Also always worth a visit and a listen is WBEZ’s Chicago Public Radio site.