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Experimental art and music performance: never easy

An evening of experimental art, music and live video. Pushing the envelope

Art and music – and often video – are frequently combined in live performance sometimes with great results, and sometimes with experimental results that show what can be done, but reach farther than their grasp.

The town I live in is a hotbed of  music and art experimentation, especially in jazz. There is a large and very talented Mexican music and artistic and video community here that loves to fuse, combine, experiment.They are bolstered by the film and art and music schools of the huge University of Guadalajara (280,000 students) only an hour away.  Earlier this year, we were treated to La Michicihualli, a combination of indigenous music, film and dance. The theme was the legend of Michicihualli, the goddess of Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala and it worked beautifully.

This week I attended another experimental presentation, whose theme was not legendary, rather, it was the stars and music of film.  Colectivo de fuego, a combination of recorded and live music, a live painting on stage, live video, sculptures that functioned as speakers, and film clips. Colletivo de fuego was presented on stage in a local movie theater using its projection system

Presented by a group from Morelia and Michoacan,  Colectivo de fuego brought some new ideas to the experimental music/art performance world, starting with sculpture. Scattered around the screening room at the newly remodeled Cine+lago movie theater were sculptures that resembled cartoon machines and wacky horns. Inside them were Bluetooth receivers that picked up music transmitted from a cellphone, and amplified it and changed its quality, giving it definition and depth.

Not all the sculptures were speakers; the program began with sculpture artist Tony Barrera slowly walking ceremonial style up the aisle of the theater carrying a large, vertical fired -clay  incense burner sculpture, following by a live video crew . The image, which was quite good considering they were using a single light and an iPad, was projected on the the theater’s screen. That kicked off a program in which artist Kahuil Vega created a portrait live onstage, while film clips from movies and cartoons played silently on the screen behind him, punctuated by live video of his painting. Music was supplied by Jesus Venegas Ochoa, who controlled a looping soundtrack and played electric guitar and violin– (not at the same time).

The team on stage with a blank canvas a live video behind them

After  Barrera  placed the incense burner on the center edge of the stage, the video crew shifted to the artist Kahuil Vega at stage right,  who began portrait on a large canvas. As film clips played on the big screen behind him, and the music soared, he built the portrait up layer by layer in tune with the music and the film clips, which ranged from Disney animation to teen films of the 50’s and 60’s.

But the highlight was the music and singing. Jesus Venegas Ochoa, who is blind, pulled emotion and power out of his electric guitar and his violin, backed by pre-recorded loops. He added powerful vocals that filled the hall. He was especially powerful when vocalizing Roy Orbison – not imitating, but delivering with the same emotion.

The combination of the film clips, the music and ongoing painting (which became a portrait of Black Panther from the movie “Wakanda Forever” when it was finished) was a combination I had not seen before and was a good one. It didn’t quite come together either artistically or technically because of limitations on live video imposed by the use of the theater’s projection system, which is not designed for it.  But the group is going to do it again in another location next week and hopefully it comes off without a hitch and maybe and I can bring you a video.

Patrick O’Heffernan

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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (414 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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