Many years ago something happened that made me question the nature of music, and ultimately all "art" for that matter. I was at a friend's house playing a record (Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music), when his mom complained about the noise. She asked, "what's that sound?" "It's music," we replied. Moments later, my friend echoed his mother's sentiment: "If we can call this music, what is music anyway?" By which he meant, what should and should not be considered music--how can we tell music from un-music? Given that Reed's MMM is what you might call abstract, experimental, or avant-garde -- it's literally just 64 minutes of uninterrupted guitar feedback -- it was a perfectly reasonable question to ask.
Fliching Eye Collective
Somehow, immediately, an answer struck me: "If someone calls something music, then that's what it is--music. That's all it takes." To my mind, it's a sufficient measuring stick by which to answer the question. A sensible way to account for boundary-defying visionaries like John Cage, Brian Eno, or even Edgard Varese, figures whose music challenges the very concept of creative process, often intentionally favoring chance and accident over control and intent. But, of course, the bigger question here is: what constitutes "art" in general? In truth, ever since Marcel Duchamp -- hitherto disinterested in strictly visual mediums--slapped a urinal in a studio and called it art, it's a question we've had to take much more seriously (Duchamp's answer, too, seems to be: if someone considers an item to be art, then it's art). Now, nearly 100 years later, an entire new generation of artists are learning how to answer the question for themselves.
One such group is the Flinching Eye Collective. Consisting of seven multi-medium artists, FEC is a roaming performance project that seeks to subvert traditional artistic conventions by exploring the connectedness of sound, video and environment. Straddling the fringes of low and high art, FEC's interactive exhibitions provide a complete immersive experience, incorporating elements of improvisation, indeterminacy and philosophical playfulness to fascinating effect. In other words, expect the unexpected (playing drum-kits with live microphones, applying power-tools to running turntables--things like that). In this way, each one of their performances is a true original, a single-use, realtime stick of art. Luckily, with FEC's upcoming three-leg Texas tour, we'll get to experience this art for ourselves. Occasioned by Flinching Eye Collective's performance in Exposition Park this Friday, we spoke with two of their members: Max Berstein and Ryan Ruehlen.More »