Online video documenting the entire Centre Pompidou XS: The Opera Opus: An Operatic Transvaluation of No Wave Aesthetics by Joseph Nechvatal and Rhys Chatham event

A video documenting the entire Centre Pompidou March 8th XS: The Opera Opus: An Operatic Transvaluation of No Wave Aesthetics by Joseph Nechvatal and Rhys Chatham event ~ organized by Nicolas Ballet ~ has been published online at the Centre Pompidou website HERE.

Works screened during the March 8th session:

-Karole Armitage, Rhys Chatham, Vertige, 1979, 2 min 23 s (excerpt).

-Karole Armitage, Rhys Chatham, Drastic-Classicism, 1981, 1 min 40 s (excerpt)

-Rhys Chatham, Drastic Classical Music for Electric Instruments, 1981, 1 min (excerpt)

-Joseph Nechvatal, When Things Get Rough on Easy Street, 1982, 2 min 34 s. À partir d’un extrait de Guitar Trio (1977) composed by Rhys Chatham (drums : David Linton, guitars : Nina Canal, Rhys Chatham and Joe Dizney, mix : Peter Gordon)

-Joseph Nechvatal, ExStasis Ovid, 1983, 2 min 29 s. The soundtrack is from an excerpt from Babbling Tongues of Metamorphoses (1986), which Joseph Nechvatal composed from a recording of the reading of Ovid’s Metamorphoses by American actress and opera singer Jane Lawrence Smith

-Rhys Chatham, Joseph Nechvatal, XS exemplification of XS the Opera 2022, 10 min 17 s, sound slide-show

-Joseph Nechvatal, Viral Venture, 2009, 6 min 19 s (excerpt). Animation with Rhys Chatham (music) and Stéphane Sikora (application development)

This event, moderated by curator Nicolas Ballet, discussed the eight part No Wave art music performance series, XS: The Opera Opus, created by Nechvatal and Chatham between 1984 and 1986 and explored the various sources of creation that led to the development of this multi-disciplinary No Wave scene. Its sets were consistently created by Nechvatal by projecting 35 mm cross-faded slides of his drawings onto the stage. Its final and most complete 90-minute realization were three nights of performance called XSThe Opera Opus that took place April 10, 11, 12 in 1986 at The Boston Shakespeare Theater. It consisted of three soprano singers, four trumpets, six electric guitars. bass, drums with dance choreography by Yves Musard. Nechvatal made the XS costumes from fabric printed with his drawings at The Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia.

“The figure-ground relationships of the costumed figures and background sets of XS are complex in their visual cacophony but subtly unified. Thus complementing the musical compositional style of Mr. Chatham. Like the sound of his multiple electric guitar compositions, the look of XS can remain interestingly hypnotic over an extended period of time by not overly dictating visual specificities. As such, XS explores the visualization approach to art in opposition to the dominant reductive mode. […] The look of XS breaks down the given popular signs of the time in order to liquidate their meanings so as to address the spiritual conditions of contemporary life, the excessiveness of contemporary electronics, nuclear weapon overload, and the proliferation of ideological information. But XS is not fundamentally literary. It is primarily about conceptual linkage; as a seamless flow of intuitive imagery dreams of a technological and ideological reality that blends over-ripeness with minimal concision. In XS, Mr. Chatham’s music is the primary dramatic element and the scenery the text. Performed dramatic action is subordinated to internal rumination because XS turns culture inward; away from the bourgeois world and its standards to a more personnel, private and extra-ordinary world. That is why XS depicts no human confrontation, no satire, no attack. The normal world is merely dissolved into a beatific vision of ecstatic peace through the melting together of figure-ground oppositions.”

~from Nechvatal’s XSThe Opera Opus original program notes

If this gets you in the No Wave mood ~ the 1 hour February 9th dublab No Wave music radio show I curated in support of the Pompidou show has been archived HERE. I also choose music for, and am interviewed on, the radio show Krachwald #26: No Wave Time Warp now online HERE.


Joseph Nechvatal (born in Chicago) is an American transdisciplinary artist currently living in Paris who creates virus-modeled artificial life paintings, animations, and sound works. Themes he has addressed in his art include the apocalyptic, excess, the viral, gender fluidity, and computer-robotics. His sound art cassette Selected Sound Works and vinyl double LP The Viral Tempest has recently been released on the music label Pentiments. Nechvatal also writes art theory, criticism and poetry. His theory/history book Immersion Into Noise received a second publication in 2022 and his second book of poetry Styling SagaciousnessOh Great No! was published by punctum books also in 2022, a year in which he exhibited new paintings at Galerie Richard in Paris in a solo exhibition called Turning the Viral Tempest.

Rhys Chatham is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from Manhattan, currently living in Paris, who fused avant-garde minimalism with the electric crunch of punk rock. Chatham’s instrumentation ranges from the seminal composition composed in 1977 entitled Guitar Trio for 3 electric guitars, electric bass and drums, to the epoch evening-length work for 100 electric guitars, An Angel Moves Too Fast to See, composed in 1989… all the way to Chatham’s recent composition for 200 electric guitars, A Crimson Grail, last performed in Birmingham, UK at Town Hall in 2014, to the Sydney Festival in 2018 with a new piece for 100 electric guitars, A Secret Rose. Chatham is currently touring as a solo performer, and in duo with guitarist David Fenech; a recording will be released in April 2023 on Klang Galerie (Vienna).


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:
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