Put on your Masonic robes and pick up your scythes (unsharpened, please). A slew of experimental musicians and out-there visual artists will gather at Microscope Gallery this Friday to perform Satanic rites amidst heavy drone music and beelzebubian projections.
It’s definitely the most Lucifer-friendly event in the weekly series of performances and discussions held at the Bushwick gallery, but Make Mine Satan, organized by artists Lisa Gwilliam and Ray Sweeten is an exercise in anathema to their ongoing show, Echelons. Think of the “black mass” as the 666 to Echelons’s 999. The exhibition, which the pair are heading under their collaborative moniker, DataSpaceTime, examines “American culture post 9/11 in the context of history, politics, mythology and religion,” by way of video that the artists shot at the new World Trade Center and “thousands of animated gifs,” plus an original sound piece and digital print work, some of it inspired by Northern Renaissance paintings.
“The show looks at 9/11 as a changing point,” explained Elle Burchill, co-founder of Microscope. “It’s several years later now, and as the buildings are completed, they’re a symbol of resurrection and rebirth, but at the same time people come here as pilgrims, and there’s this militarization happening.” What Echelons is interested in is the American zeitgeist, really– think: the NSA, cops with high-tech tanks and body armor, an ever-encroaching, binary-coded digital existence, and the Tribute in Light. Let’s just say Laura Poitras’s Astro Noise is totally indebted.
But Make Mike Satan is interested in what exists outside of, or what goes against, this paranoid world. “In our work, specifically, we try to question ideas of authority and religion and the power that those things have, as well as commerce and surveillance,” Ray explained.
“The show is sort of a stand-in as the ‘other’ to religion or group thought– it’s anything that’s unknown,” Lisa added. “The only way we’ve learned to describe that space outside of religious thought is ‘Satan,’ but really it’s everything else.” Hence, drone music, an outsider insofar as it’s a no-holds-barred musical practice that’s governed only by improv and a consistent, sometimes piercing but also strangely soothing amalgamation of visceral vibrations.
The aesthetic the artists are hoping to capture with Make Mine Satan is inspired by some photographs they found circling around online that depict “European pagan costuming and ritual centered on the harvest,” Lisa explained. Costumes and other props will certainly add a ritualistic vibe to the black mass, but for the most part it’ll be a freewheeling hour or so of free improv, with some lasers and live visuals. The fluid format is not just indicative of a Satanic sort of anti-authoritarianism, but it was also inspired by Dan Seltzer, a musician, DJ, and founder of the post-punk reissue label Acute Records who’ll be reviving his improvisational, late-’90s performances with Ray. Other participants include mainstays of the local noise scene like Jeff Tobias of Ashcan Orchestra (residents of The Wallet, along with PC Worship’s Justin Frye), classically trained musicians like Alex Waterman (of Plus Minus Ensemble), as well as Jim McHugh and Jeff Tobias (of the New York-based drone outfit Sunwatchers).
“Jim is a great of example of what we’re going for in the show, a lot of his projects like Drunken Foreigner Band have a sense of humor, but everybody is a virtuoso at what they play– you can’t dismiss them as a joke band because everybody plays so fucking well,” Lisa explained. “And everybody [who’s part of the black mass], their skill level is such that, even if certain parts are really fun, they’ll still be really in control.”
Zach Layton, a composer and visual artist will be contributing visuals along with the artist Brock Monroe, who Ray explained “did a lot of visual stuff in the early days of Secret Project Robot.” Layton will be sharing his abstract laser projections that look like something like what an EKG machine on PCP would spit out.
Lisa and Ray said they’re not exactly planning for people to get in on the Black Mass performance– it’s more of a spectator sport– however people might enjoy “unwittingly” participating in the rites, as the audience will be part of a live video feed projected onto the wall. So put on your pagan antler headdress and dust off your upside-down crucifix or, you know, as Lucifer prefers it, don’t wear anything at all — this is your moment to shine like the unholy beacon of darkness you are.
Make Mine Satan is happening Friday February 5, 8 pm at Microscope Gallery, 1329 Willoughby Avenue #2B as part of the ongoing exhibition Echelons, by DataSpaceTime (Lisa Gwilliam & Ray Sweeten) on view now until Sunday February 21, gallery hours: Thursday through Monday, 1 pm to 6 pm.