Selected Sound Works (1981-2021): Track Notes & Liner Notes & Comments

Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)

28 tracks on 60minute cassette (and Bandcamp)

retrospective of Joseph Nechvatal’s sound art

Produced by Pentiments Records

Released on October 15th, 2021 

Available online

HERE

Tracks and track notes

Crown of Thorns (1981) 0:47

Crown of Thorns was first published on the No Wave compilation anthology LP record Just Another Asshole #5 in 1981 that was edited and organized by Barbara Ess and Glenn Branca. On it, Nechvatal drastically and humorously edits himself with media snippets playing a Tibetan gyaling. A CD reissue of Just Another Asshole was released in 1995 on Atavistic Records. 

Ego Masher (1983) 7:05

Ego Masher is a home studio sound collage, audio sampler, musique concrète piece that first appeared on Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine #1 in 1983, the year the cassette magazine was co-founded by Nechvatal. This track was republished by Sub Rosa Label as the third track on An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music, Vol. 6 in 2010.

Announcing Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine Party at Paradise Garage (1983) 0:34

Announcing Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine Party at Paradise Garage is a home studio sampler snippet Nechvatal created for broadcast as part of his live mix radio show done with Tron Von Hollywood on WBAI in mid-December 1983. The snippet is announcing the first Tellus club launch party that was held on December 26th at the Paradise Garage in New York City.

chOke (1983) 4:34

chOke is a sampler audio art, musique concrète extract taken from Nechvatal’s cassette release Sleep(1983) (side 1) on the Sound Of Pig cassette label (#140). On December 24th, 2020 The Institute For Alien Research broadcast chOke as part of its 4’33” | | |   | | | CUT UP’S broadcast on Staalplaat Radio.

Excerpt from Sleep (1983) 1:47

Excerpt from Sleep is another extract from Nechvatal’s 1983 cassette release Sleep (side I) on the Sound Of Pig cassette label. Sleep was the backbone of the DJ live mix sets Nechvatal played at The Speed Club, an afterhours art club Nechvatal ran with Bradley Eros on Saturday mornings from midnight to 5am during the summer of 1984 at ABC No Rio.

Excerpt I from Reckless (1984) 4:02

Excerpt I from Reckless is a plunderphonic piece played by Nechvatal on synthesizer at Studio PASS (Public Access Synthesizer Studio) at Harvestworks in New York City. It was released on cassette by Sound of Pig (#217) in 1984. Reckless was the backbone of the live mix DJ sets Nechvatal played at 8BC, a nightclub, performance space, and art gallery at 337 East 8th Street in the East Village.

Excerpt II from Reckless (1984) 6:41

ibid.

Dalychtocracy (1985) 2:01

Dalychtocracy features Joseph Nechvatal playing electric guitar that he then manipulated at Studio PASS. It appeared in 1985 on Tellus #10: All Guitars! that was curated by Live Skull founding member Tom Paine.

Excerpt from Absurd (1985) 0:17

Cut-up appropriation excerpts by Nechvatal that appeared in 1985 on the Out of Context cassette that was attached to a booklet by Velcro. It was reissued as a limited-edition CDR in 2010.

10 mOther :: Excerpt from Absurd (1985) 1:08

ibid.

11 Excerpt from TRUE and FALSE (1985) 1:30

Excerpt from TRUE and FALSE is a 1985 excerpt ripped from side II of the XOX-001 cassette TRUE and FALSE with Nechvatal playing synthesizer at Studio PASS.  

12 How to Kill (1986) 0:53

How to Kill is a plunderphonic cut-up reduction of the Janet Jackson song Nasty from her 1986 album Control. Nechvatal published How to Kill on Tellus #13: Power Electronics; an issue of Tellus he solo edited in 1986.

13 Psychedelic Hermeneutic (1988) 1:36

Psychedelic Hermeneutic is a plunderphonic cut-up reduction of the first 17 seconds of The Jimi Hendrix Experience song Are You Experienced? from their 1967 Are You Experienced? album. Psychedelic Hermeneutic was published on Tellus #20Media Myth, the second issue of Tellus Nechvatal solo edited in 1988. In his book Immersion Into Noise, Nechvatal writes about the impact that Hendrix’s feedback music had upon him at the age 17 when he saw Hendrix play live at the Chicago Coliseum, on December 1, 1968.

14 Excerpt from Information Noise Culture (1990) 1:07

Information Noise Culture (aka Ecstatic Product) is a 1990 15:51 minute unreleased sound-loop that played inside a 5x5x5 foot square xerox-covered sculpture (also titled Information Noise Culture) by Nechvatal that was shown in Paris by Galerie Antoine Candau. It was made and mastered by Nechvatal at Studio PASS.

15 Excerpt from Endless Entertainment (1990) 0:47

Endless Entertainment is a sound loop synthesizer piece published in1990 on the ASSEMBLAGEcompilation cassette by PBK Recordings, run by the noise drone composer Phillip B. Klingler. In 2014 Nechvatal and Klingler teamed up to create the posthumous Minóy book, cassette and CD (all edited by Nechvatal) on Punctum Books and Records.

16 cOre (2000) 0:23

cOre is an unreleased synthesizer noise piece tribute to the New York hardcore punk scene, much appreciated by Nechvatal in his youth.

17 rainOnme (2001) 0:05

rainOnme is an unreleased musique concrète sample Nechvatal recorded on the roof of his Ludlow Street building while looking at the decimated site of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks. The audio was to be looped and played continuously as part of Nechvatal’s proposed 9/11architectural sculpture funerary monument, that was rejected by the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition jury.

18 cOde flOw (2002) x0:32

cOde flOw is an unreleased synthesizer piece Nechvatal made at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City in 2002 where he taught art and technology from 1999 to 2013. In 2005 he used a slowed down version of cOde flOw as the soundtrack for his virus animation portrait of French digital art theorist Edmond Couchot, as part of his Computer Virus Project 2.0 series.

19 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~venus©-~Ñ~vibrator, even 01 (2003) 1:33

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~venus©-~Ñ~vibrator, even 01 is the first track from an audio computer reading performed June 6th, 2003 as part of Nechvatal’s art exhibition vOluptuary: an algorithic hermaphornology at Gallery Universal Concepts Unlimited in New York City. The music on the audio was generated by David Lee Myers (aka Arcane Device) and Arcane Device produced a limited edition audio CD. This CD created an audio artist book of the 40,000word cyber-sex farce novella Nechvatal wrote (by the same name) during his Cite des Art International artist-in-residency in Paris in1995.

20 Excerpt from viral symphOny (2006) 3:00

viral symphOny was a result of Nechvatal’s Computer Virus Project II art project ~ developed with Stephane Sikora as a C++ a-life program ~ moving into real-time audio production where sound is synthesized from the activity of the constructed a-life virus. The algorithm used for it is a form of granular synthesis applied to tiny audio files in which parameters are modulated according to statistics extracted from the visual virus simulation: the virus’ reproduction rate and resource consumption. Simulated audio viral attacks were recorded during Nechvatal’s residency at The Institute for Electronic Art at Alfred University in New York State and were subsequently worked on by him, Andrew Deutsch and Matthew Underwood for the creation of the initial 28minute movement of Nechvatal’s viral symphOny (the enthrOning) that was released in 2006 as a CD by The Institute for Electronic Arts. This extract was published in 2006 in NME (The New Musical Express) magazine.

21 degeneratiOns (2006) 1:18

degeneratiOns is the captured C++ viral real-time field recording track from Nechvatal’s DVD degeneratiOns that was produced by The Institute for Electronic Arts in 2006.

22 Excerpt from cOncertO viral (2010) 2:26

Excerpt from cOncertO viral is a collaboration between Joseph Nechvatal and Rhys Chatham recorded September 26th, 2010 at the cOncertO viral performance Chatham gave in conjunction with Nechvatal’s art exhibition Art Rétinal Revisité: Histoire de l’Oeil at Galerie Richard (Paris). Chatham performed electronic-manipulated trumpet along with an excerpt from Nechvatal’s viral symphOny (the enthrOning) (2006) that he manipulated. Chatham and Nechvatal first collaborated in the mid-1980s on XS: The Opera Opus, a no wave avant-garde art music performance, and again in 2009, when Chatham contributed to Nechvatal’s Viral Venture projection with a soundtrack from one of his compositions for 400 electric guitars. Viral Venture was publicly first shown in 2011 on a large screen at the Beatrice Theater of the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

23 trail Of tears (2013) 0:49

trail Of tears is the audio track Nechvatal made for his 2013 virus-modeled a-life animation trail Of tears in the Machine of Being. The Trail of Tears is a name given to the forced relocation and movement of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. 

24 viral symphOny compressed (2018) 1:22

For viral symphOny compressed in 2018 Nechvatal took the entire 28minutes first movement of his 2006 viral symphOny and compressed it down to 1:22minutes.

25 viral sympOny~~~~~~~~~~~~vibrator, even (2011) 3:15

For viral sympOny~~~~~~~~~~~~vibrator, even Nechvatal mashed up a part of his ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~venus©-~Ñ~vibrator, even recording with field recordings taken in preparation for viral symphOny that were also released in 2006 on the CD published by The Institute for Electronic Arts.

26 viral symphOny redux (2020) 5:34

For viral symphOny redux Nechvatal and Andrew Deutsch revisited unutilized sound material captured from the 2006 Institute for Electronic Arts viral symphOny project. This material was subsequently used in the creation of a suite of noise music audio tracks collectively called the Orlando et la tempête viral symphOny redux suite, published on Nechvatal’s The Viral Tempest LP record by Pentiments Records in 2021. viral symphOny redux was conceived in connection with Nechvatal’s art exhibition Orlando et la tempête, held in the Fall of 2020 at Galerie Richard (Paris) and then grew to the six movements49minutes work Orlando et la tempête viral symphOny redux suite. It revisits virus-modelled a-life audio material from viral symphOny (the enthrOning) (2006) integrated by Nechvatal with the voice of an anonymous reading of the novel Orlando, written by Virginia Woolf in 1928.

27 on the defeat of don the con (2020) 1:57

Coming full circle, for on the defeat of don the con Nechvatal celebrated the defeat of Donald Trump by mixing manipulated generic Chicago house music with a slowed down re-visitation of his 1981 Crown Of Thorns track.

28 pour finir avec le jugement de dieu viral symphOny plague 1 (2021) 2:05

In early 2021, Joseph Nechvatal picked up and read again Antonin Artaud’s prophetic text The Theatre and the Plague that Artaud originally presented as a performance-lecture on April 6, 1933 at the Sorbonne. In it, Artaud develops the foundations of his Theater of Cruelty by establishing an analogy between the rupture of the civilizational order caused by the plague and the convulsive passions triggered by the virulence of his transgressive theatrical poetics. Re-reading the text within the context of the 2020-2021 viral pandemic, Nechvatal created an eight movement audio suite called pour finir avec le jugement de dieu viral symphOny plague ~ released on Nechvatal’s 2021 The Viral Tempest LP by Pentiments Records. pour finir avec le jugement de dieu viral symphOny plague 1 is the first of those tracks where Nechvatal remixed aspects of his full virus-modeled a-life noise music composition viral symphOny (2006-2008) with compressed and transformed and superimposed segments of Artaud’s 1947 radio play Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu (To Have Done with the Judgment of God).  

Liner Notes

Nigredo of Sound Art

by Laurent Fairon

This is an overview of post-conceptual and multimedia artist Joseph Nechvatal’s sound collages and experimental music, from 1980s tape experiments to 21st century polymorphous, digital endeavors. Born in Chicago in 1951, Nechvatal studied art and philosophy before relocating to New York City in 1975. During the 1980s, he co-founded the non-profit cultural space ABC NO Rio and avantgarde music series Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine, and took part in many experimental cassette compilations, installation projects and avant-garde live events taking place seemingly everywhere in Lower Manhattan at the time.

I got interested around 2005, collecting Tellus Audio Cassettes and later archiving and documenting them on Ubuweb and Wikipedia, as well as on my own blog—eventually meeting Joseph personally in Paris around 2008, where he now lives. In retrospect, Nechvatal’s artistic career seems to have been a long tight-rope walk over a variety of epidemics, from AIDS-ridden NYC in the 1980s, to his viractuality concept coined at the end of the century, to today’s COVID-19 catastrophe. It is perhaps only natural, then, that his art deals with viruses, and his music with aural degeneration and sonic necrosis—his own personal view, perhaps, of the transient state of life on Earth.

The 1980s were a time of joyous, multifarious sound experiments for Nechvatal, from no wave guitar explorations (Dalychtocracy, 1985), to analog synth music (TRUE and FALSE, 1985), onto multiple tape collages. While all three genres are documented in this anthology, it is in rebus-like, caustic sound collages that Nechvatal reveled and found a vehicle for the shit-loads of flotsam sound detritus in his immediate vicinity. Whether coming from records, radio broadcasts, TV commercials, or political speech, for Nechvatal these aural excreta deserved to be transmogrified and dignified through sound art, just like Antonin Artaud elevated caca, or shit, to mythical, ontological status in his writings from the 1930s and ’40s. It is in this sound art Nigredo—the dark, alchemical art of transmutation, according to Carl Jung—that we might find a key to approach Nechvatal’s recent digital sound works as well.

During the 1992–2002 period, Nechvatal launched his Computer Virus Project for multimedia works created with programming code and auto-generative routines, which led him to exhibit corrupted data as art. From then on, all his work is deemed viral, being based on data manipulation, data corruption and cellular automata. First applied to computer-assisted paintings and video animations, his viractuality concept also ultimately found its way into his music after 2000, with some sound works merely consisting of the sound of a computer virus at work.

In 21st century works, Joseph Nechvatal’s sound art gained density and complexity as he composed longer and increasingly ambitious works. In this respect, the first version of the viral symphOny in 2006 acted as a manifesto and a blueprint for things to come. The viral symphOny is a vast collage of recycled sounds and corrupted audio data given a life of its own by cellular automata procedures and de-generative algorithms, assembled into a constantly shape-shifting, multisonant sound work. A first version was published on CD in 2006, then reworked and reprocessed at various stages in subsequent years, and finally given a complete reshuffle in 2020 under the title OrlandO et la tempête viral symphOny redux suite. During this long incubation period, a team of programmers, AI specialists and sound engineers contributed to the elaboration of the music, which appears to have been cultivated in a sonic Petri dish of some sort, rather than composed in a traditional way.

The spoken word is also a common fixture in Nechvatal’s sound works from later years, be it found sounds, text-to-speech readings by an automaton, or collaboration with readers in the flesh. Texts include his own space-filling prose poetry, his own cut-and-paste word collages, and excerpts from Classical literature, from Ancient Greek authors to Virginia Woolf and Antonin Artaud. The last few years have also seen a renewed interest in sound collage in association with found sounds and computer viruses, culminating in pour finir avec le jugement de dieu viral symphOny plague in 2021, a brilliant sonic transmutation of Antonin Artaud’s 1947 suppressed radio art piece. For Joseph Nechvatal, there is still a lot of shit to turn into gold, and the dark art of Nigredo remains a never-ending sonic process.

—Laurent Fairon, 2021

Comments about Selected Sound Works (1981​-​2021)

“For me, these Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) tracks are ‘sound stem chains’, a sonic ‘inspirational tool’, not unlike Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” or even earlier, like the card deck by Marshall McLuhan called “Distant Early Warnings” . . . [T]his dream listening takes me back to my childhood experience of sound, kneeling on the rug spinning the dial on a massive floor model short wave radio receiver that was marked with the names of cities across the world; just listening to static and distant broadcasts (DXing) in languages I did not speak.”

— Judy Nylon

“The apparent contradiction in the parallelism of musical and human expressions with what appears as “noise” reveals in Selected Sound Works a thorough metamorphosis into the state of sound art. The continuous surprise becomes a coherent textural patchwork, an involuntary composition of fears, anxieties and joy submitted to the treatment of a deforming and multi-reflecting mirror. Recognizing or simply ignoring the sources does not change the result in the mind of the listeners: subjected to a training of memory, they’re also urged to instinctive reaction by the constant shifting of the acoustic stimulus.”

— Massimo Ricci

“Joseph Nechvatal’s Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) is a brain-jarring intermedia collision of post-conceptual art and Minimalist subculture. Experience the next logical step beyond the sustained drones and disciplined intonations of freeform radicals like Cage, Glass, Reich, LaMonte, Maciunas, MacLise, Ono, Jennings, Niblock, Flynt, Gibson, and Branca. This cassette-only package is worth obtaining for its Laurent Fairon liner notes alone. Demanding, commanding, and outstanding.” 

— Steven Blush, author/filmmaker American Hardcore

“Spanning plunderphonic cut-ups, gestural noise, synthesizer improvisations, and bracing computational abstraction, Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) offers a vivid account of the evolving strategies that have defined experimental electronic music and sonic art across the millenium, showing how one of its most committed artists and theorists – working across the analogue and digital, aural and spatial, human and inhuman – has built a sonic world that seamlessly connects late 20th century ferromagnetic/digital exploration, mass media détournement, and site-specific sound sculpture to contemporary explorations of virality, artificial intelligence, and computational culture in the early 21st century.”  

— Charles Eppley 

Selected Sound Works (1981-2021)” documents forty years of musical experimentation by Joseph Nechvatal. Writer, painter, composer- Nechvatal in the 1980’s was an integral part of the U.S. cassette network. Known not only for his own audio works, but also co-founding the Tellus Cassette Magazine where he curated such essential compilations as “Power Electronics”, “Media Myth” and “The Improvisors”, documenting the international tape underground at its peak. I learned about a lot of sound artists from those compilations, but I also got to know and love Nechvatal’s music too. Using disparate sound sources from television, LP’s, and tapes, he created irreverent audio montages, chance happenings that were ‘plunderphonic’ before John Oswald even coined the term. His loop compositions were particularly fascinating to me and he contributed the piece ‘Endless Entertainment’ to my compilation, Assemblage, in 1990. Joseph’s work is a rich amalgam of elements gathered from popular (and obscure) culture and fed back to us with broken connotations and mutated subtext. Crucial.”

— PBK (Phillip B. Klingler)

“To accept the easily palatable is the fate of the mob…. For the poet exists to marvel.” —Maglorie-Saint-Aude “Like Nechvatal’s visual production, Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) plunges us into the most veiled corners of the primal and energetic beyond. They remind me of Gide’s declaration, ‘no new thinking enters the temple of art in borrowed robes.’ Regardless of its electricity, the various discernable movements are auditorily Olympian in strength but emotionally fragile and without ornament. Yet, the level of its organic coherence, its language, and its intangible layering of abstract qualities illuminates an eloquent disaggregate critique of the friction between the sublime and contemporary society. Hence, “the only durable works are those that circumstances provoked.” — Goethe 

— Joseph S. Lewis

“Sound snatches and samples, spoken snippets and streams, ice floes of placid ambience that evoke Fripp/Eno bumping up against screaming beats that signify James Brown via Eric B & Rakim, Selected Sound Works appears random at the start then proceeds and develops according to an internal logic, gathering energy and an elegant coherence across two old-fashioned cassette sides. What seemed ‘outside’ or experimental in 1981, when Joseph Nechvatal starting assembling these sonic collages, in 2021, after forty years of hip hop, techno, industrial, EDM et al, just sounds like music. Or life. And it’s still more interesting than listening to the radio.”

— Mark Coleman

“Listening to Joseph Nechvatal’s Selected Sound Works, you feel as though you are eavesdropping through snippets of time. Cut-ups and sampling tidbits have been captured and compressed into filaments and arabesques of sound. Past and present tenses transform into a chimerical unraveling of what we think we know — into a language of the unknown.”   

—Aline Mare

“A True Rollercoaster of the MyND. I am listening writing a blurb. I am thinking of other needle droppers and the flow lifopsies of the 20th and 21st centyr as I listen and wathc JosepHis release is quite Lin EAR  a marv squish s nquah needle drops keep falling on my it’s the old dope peddlar drive away on a chevrolay it can’t be true is poof tis the magic draon n    B   See sea dragons clickety clak it’s the hahhhhhahhhhh birthday tooamiliar  bah dah bah boom watch nat sound machine sound familiar bah dah dah boom unfamiliar familiar  in demi sec die digestion. what would your mother say? – ghost of t t t t t  kkkkkkk ahhhhhh X C-lected excuse me while   edit mm edit mm if you edit 15 min —————————————========================_____________________ ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh****** UH as the 2nd 29’30″ of the 59 min release unfolded, my surgical urge to talk about the wish to have a full stop after each piece! as they flowed into each other making acrobatic the coord with the superb liner notes.  JoseoHis circus, Hooray.”

—Charlie Morrow

“What fascinates me most about Joseph Nechvatal ~ Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) is the attitude. There is a certain braveness that I admire, a sort of boldness. An understanding that sound artifacts, that occur when recording and editing tape, actually adds to the message of the music. Form follows function. Never worry about the outcome. Just create!! And that attitude I find in all aspects of Nechvatal’s work; the choices he makes in combining sounds and in the sounds he chooses. His work with Tellus also had a big influence on my life as a sound artist. We sold Tellus tapes at the Staalplaat shop in Amsterdam and I collected most of them and learned from listening to them.”

—Radboud Mens, Staalplaat

“Sound is subjective. When one hears an audio sound, it cannot help be part of one’s memory and senses. Joseph Nechvatal’s Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) is an aural adventure within your head, which is lovely. It is a Proustian series of moments to sit and listen to this landscape of aurally delights that takes one to familiar places and mysterious locations that once may have had a map but now undiscovered territory. The first listen will not be your last.”

—Tosh Berman

“One wonders what is it like to step into a time-machine, or better yet, to ask the question: what kind of sound allows for time travel? These Selected Sound Works snippets and excerpts by Joseph Nechvatal, covering his artistic creation in the period from 1981 to 2021, are an answer to this question. These time-slices, produced over 40 years, cover a polyphony of artistic creation and express Nechvatal’s exorcism of relevant cultural tropes and historical events; from Tibetan chants to a 9/11 sound memorial to a C++ viral real-time field recording, this monumental work compresses time-travel into a cassette.”

—Dana Dawud

“Listening to Joseph Nechvatal’s Selected Sound Works transported me to the sonic landscape I discovered living in New York City in the late 70s and 80s. Every sound was available to be heard, recorded, spliced, looped, slowed down, sped up, and cut. The tape recorder was an instrument and everyone had their own unique palette and position in space to convey.   John Cage taught us that all we had to do was listen. Listening to Selected Sound Works is that kind of listening. It’s all in there. It’s the joyful noise of sonic exploration and attentive listening to what we love.”

—Gen Ken Montgomery

“Fantastic old-school industrial noise collage.”

— Gerald Xe Jupitter-Larsen

“The Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) cut-ups take the listener on a journey through time; crossing both the cultural references of Joseph Nechvatal and his interest in the encompassing power of noise. This tape, which spans four decades of sound cogitation, explores topics that also punctuated the artist’s writings (Immersion Into Noise, in particular) and visual works. The track Excerpt II from Reckless(1984) reproduces, for example, the sounds of detonations that recall the issues of nuclear weapons that Nechvatal and Rhys Chatham raised in their mid-1980s avant-garde art music performance XS: The Opera Opus. This work crossed various historical and philosophical elements to criticise the massive and disproportionate production of atomic weapons under the Ronald Reagan presidency. As Nechvatal wrote in his essay “The Look of XS” in Unsound (vol. 3, n° 1), “XS resonates not only with contemporary historical images, but also with faint visual references to Pompeii, the cave dwellers, and the 60s. […] Here the mind is wrestled away from Aristotelian logic by use of elaborate poly-structures, so that we glimpse the image of mass annihilation wrought by militarized technology which now provides the major context for our art and our lives.” Nechvatal had already dabbled with the theme of nuclear conflict in 1979, when he plastered the walls of a group of buildings in Lower Manhattan with posters, proclaiming “Limited’ Nuclear War.” 

The symbolic power of the nuclear weapon is addressed in Selected Sound Works through the artistic practices of audio collage, instrumental performance, and sound manipulation. That power allows us to appreciate Nechvatal’s more current preoccupation with the notion of the virus. His viral symphOny, composed over the years, focuses on his fascination with the virus; manifest in his computer-assisted viral paintings, a-life animations, and sound works; that end here with an acoustic journey that pays tribute to Antonin Artaud, with a reinterpretation of Artaud’s radio play, Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu.”

— Nicolas Ballet 

“I’ve always felt that rock recordings were like scattered public monuments in the far more expansive, atmospheric landscapes of electrically and electronically mediated sound, the concatenation of machines, frequencies, channels and networks that subtends whatever is called modern music. Joseph Nechvatal’s Selected Sound Works (1981-2021) seem to recapture that feeling with stunning clarity, timing and musical sensitivity, allowing a dispersion of familiar samples to appear as the effects of the vast sonic grounds that nourished them in the first place.”

— Ina Blom

“When Joseph Nechvatal picked up Antonin Artaud’s Theater and the Plague (1933) in 2021, he was surely looking for tools to understand the social implications of the current plague, COVID-19 and its variant, alongside the many different plagues of his lifetime, whether HIV/AIDS, or the rising tide of computer viruses. All of these are connected by many things (global travel, human/animal land competition, and resource competition), but share a particular interest the structure of mutation. In viral mutations, traces of the original contagion persist even as variants wipe out the beneficial structures of resistance, whether they be antibodies, anti-viral medication, or various forms of avoiding social contact. The structure of this accelerated process of transformation is audible within individual works on this cassette. How to Kill (1986) audibly represents its source and its viral adaptation of fragmented cuts (Janet Jackson’s Nasty). Psychedelic Hermeneutic (1988) translates seventeen seconds of feedback from its source (Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?) into a minute-and-a-half exploration of feedback. The repetitions and feedings-back performing a near perfect analogue for viral reproduction as well as the bodies’ developing resistance through anti-bodies. By 2006, the viral had jumped from recorded sound to a-life synthesis in viral symphony, whose visual analogue, Computer Virus Project II was developed with Stephane Sikora as a C++ a-life program. Without reducing any of these to the direct translation model of data sonification, this cassette perfectly frames the issue of contagion and variation as sonic perceptions. Nechvatal’s lifetime of work in data manipulation, data corruption, and multi-formatted AI/automata model for the past, present and future of viruses. We live now in an era where ‘going viral’ is desirable as a term of widespread cultural imprinting. But usually ‘going viral’ means the thing is unchanged as it spreads. This view separates contagion from transformation, which is at the center of Nechvatal’s practice. If you want to hear what’s gained in the translation, try listening to the source material (Jackson & Hendrix) and Nechvatal’s transformation of it. Or, find the imagery of Computer Virus Project II and listen to its musical counterpart.”

— Hannah Higgins

Pentiments has also published the historically detailed audio of Joseph Nechvatal’s Sonic Archeology conversation with Paul Paulun 

HERE

About josephnechvatal

Joseph Nechvatal is an American post-conceptual artist who creates virus-modeled artificial life computer-assisted paintings and animations. Themes he has addressed in his art include the apocalyptic, communication excess, the virus, and gender fluidity. In 1975, he moved from Chicago to the downtown Tribeca area of New York City. He began studying at Columbia University with the philosopher Arthur Danto while working for the Dia Art Foundation as archivist to the minimalist composer La Monte Young. In 1980, he moved from Tribeca to the sordid Lower East Side where he found artistic camaraderie and politically inspired creative energy. There he became closely associated with Collaborative Projects (Colab), the influential post-punk artists’ group that included Kiki Smith and Jenny Holzer, among others. Those were glory days for the famous Colab projects, such as Just Another Asshole, The Real Estate Show and The Times Square Show. He also helped establish the non-profit cultural space ABC No Rio, where exhibitions were animated by political purpose. In the early 1980s, his art consisted of dense post-minimalist gray graphite drawings (that were sometimes photo-mechanically enlarged), of sculpture, of photographs, and of musique concrète audio collages. In 1983, he co-founded the famous avant-garde art music project Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine. In 1984, he created an opera called XS: The Opera Opus (1984-6) with the no wave musical composer Rhys Chatham that was presented in Boston and New York. In 1986, Nechvatal began using computer-robotics to make conceptual paintings. Some were exhibited at Documenta VIII in 1987. In 1992, when he was artist-in-residence at the Louis Pasteur Atelier in Arbois and at the Saline royale d’Arc-et-Senans, he created computer virus codes that he used as an artistic tool. This work was a reflection on his personal experiences of risk and loss with the AIDS epidemic. In 1999, he earned his doctorat in the philosophy of aesthetics and technology in England and soon wrote two art theory books: Towards an Immersive Intelligence and Immersion Into Noise. In 2001, he extended his initial experimentations into the virus as an artistic painterly tool in a series of artificial life works. These works include various series of paintings, animations, and a lengthy audio composition entitled viral symphOny. He has created a series of virus-based themed exhibitions of artificial life paintings and animation projections that explore the fragility and fluidity of the human body. You can follow him on Twitter at @twinkletwink Homepage: http://www.nechvatal.net
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