Subwoofers of Antiquity
In December of last year, Verdine White, the bassist of Earth, Wind, & Fire, joined singer Robin Thicke and rapper T.I. in performing the summer hit “Blurred Lines” at the broadcast Grammy nominations show. While the bassist steadily bopped around the stage in a fuchsia suit, the singer seductively worked his falsetto contained in a lean black tux. In seeming contrast—long hair vs. crew cut—the two performers were bound by a lineage—old school funk to neo-soul—of music. Would Thicke’s inheritance be clear if the sound were mute? The potential impact of such a loss of sound, specifically music, is a point of departure for William Cordova’s piece machu picchu after dark (pa' victoria santa cruz, macario sakay y aaron.dixon) 2003-2014, on view at Seattle Art Museum (SAM) through May 14, 2014.
The piece is first visible from outside the dimly lit gallery. It appears as a large wall, some eight feet high, built up of various sizes of wooden stereo speakers. Upon entering the room, the wall transforms into a veritable monument; a monolithic cube built with traditional Inca construction techniques. On the far side of the mass of speakers, at the base, a stack of records and an open notebook appear momentarily left behind.1
Commissioned on the occasion of the Seattle Art Museum’s presentation of the exhibition “Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and Moon”, Cordova was an apt choice. While emphasizing the role of archeology in understanding Peru’s Pre-Columbian cultures, the exhibition delved into how various cultures and peoples of the past have shaped contemporary Peruvian identity. Cordova, Peruvian by birth, produced the first Macchu Picchu after dark in 2003-2004.2 This version is distinguished by the speakers and records being collected in Seattle.3 Among the records, Cordova selected funk albums form the 1970s and 1980s, including one by Earth, Wind, & Fire.
Yes and yes. It is the same Earth, Wind, & Fire from way back and today. For some, just the album cover might be enough to recall each and every song contained on the record. For others, one or two hits might come to mind. And then, others might not even realize the connection between the records and the speakers. So what about young adults looking at the piece 20 years from now? By leaving out the record player and using dated materials, Cordova coaxes out a past to launch us into the future. He suggests an inevitable disconnect between the sonic monument and its music. But don’t get distracted by the absence of the turn table. The theme of Cordova’s piece is not technology.
Cordova has produced the semblance of an antiquity. Dimly lit, machu picchu after dark looms as if it were a monument visited at dusk; familiar as a form, though unfamiliar in its significance. Neglected or collected, the objects have been repurposed. This is how the past persists, whether walls or songs, even when its origins are forgotten.
Also in Seattle
Afro-futurism discussion at Northwest African American Museum was held February 27 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Using the format of the PechaKucha, NAAM presented a discussion of Afro-futurism with Donald Byrd, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Barbara Earl Thomas, Charles Mudede. Perspectives from art, music, and literature were covered.
IRAAA+ contributing writer Elizabeth A. Watson lives in San Diego, CA.