Benefit at The Concert Hall: Kitchen Sync

Performance group with Glenn Branca, Julia Heyward, Oliver Lake, David Van Tieghem.

17 June 1982 - 23 June 1982

June 17 – 23, 1982 (various locations and times)

This Kitchen Sync Packed with acts

Carole Corbeil

Globe and Mail, June 1982

The producers of Kitchen Sync certainly proved their point: Performance art sells. Over 1,300 people turned up at the Concert Hall Saturday night to watch and hear artists from New York’s The Kitchen. And if quantity is the name of the game, they certainly got their money’s worth. Kitchen Sync turned out to be a marathon: the last performer, Oliver Lake, started his act at 2:15 a.m.

In their U.S. tour, The Kitchen artists apparently split their performances over two nights. Toronto producers who organized the event as a benefit for Mercer Union, packaged the thing as a one-night gig, throwing in a few video canapes for good measure. The problem, of course, is that performance art, no matter how glamorous and fun, is not background music. It does require some attention. The fact that most of the audience remained captive for the long event is a testament to the performers’ energy. The event, however, would have been more satisfying if the performers had edited their performances to accommodate the new billing.

What is most remarkable about these artists, however, is their self assured cleverness, their willingness to exploit pop forms. Their performances, moreover, appear to be vengefully stylized, as if they’re trying to show up the vacuous nature of most mainstream entertainment by wrapping their self-expression in equally hard shells. This bright, gem-like quality is hard to resist. For instance, Eric Bogosian, who opened the act, is a brilliant parodist whose theatrical presence could blow most stand-up comics off the stage. His performance perhaps best illustrates how performance art, which languished in the art ghetto, has acquired a new lease on life by intersecting with the detritus of popular entertainment.

The Rhys Chatham band treats rock the same way, parodying both the form and the sound of it. By being perversely attentive to the cliched gestures of rock bands, they expose the rock phenomenon while at the same time creating their own rock noise. And composer Peter Gordon’s tone poems flirt with a similar kind of parody. His saxophone evokes a bluesy melodramatic atmosphere, which is exposed as the underlying comfort of “modern relationships.” Percussionist David Van Tieghem’s performance. however, is closer to the spirit of minimal art.

Julia Heyward’s band, T-Venus, was a bit of a flop. Very little could redeem the relentlessy boring nature of the band’s sound; her use ot slides appeared, most of the time, to be meaningless. But, to her credit, Heyward, appears to be playing around with fresh images of female eroticism. Dancer Lisa Fox, on the other hand, used three sound tracks for her expressionistic dance: a tape of a party scene, the natural sound of the Concert Hall crowd talking, and live drumming. A small conceptual jab, but cleverly executed.

While all of these performances are undoubtedly “interesting,” rapper Fab Five Freddy and his breakers proved that there’s nothing like a beat to get a crowd going. That’s the thing, finally. Found art makes it. Fab Five Freddy and his deejay have got the kind of street energy which is raw which doesn’t require any kind of mental fiddling. In fact, the art context seems to diminish the spirited antics of dancers Frosty Freeze and Crazy Legs.

And again, Oliver Lake’s Jump Up sound is remarkable enough to stand on its own. In fact, Jump Up is, another word for a dance, a party. While saxophonist Lake is creating complex sound, it is accessible, rhythmical, and blessedly un-selfconcious, especially in Kitchen Sync’s frightfully conscious context.

Everything from the Kitchen Sync

Daryl Jung

NOW Magazine, June 1982

A circus is coming to town this weekend. But instead of the usual attractions – trapeze acts, clowns, and dancing elephants – there are experimental videos, off the-wall readings, avant garde dance performances and musical events all taking place at once. And you are there.

Kitchen Sync, a multi-media blitzkrieg tour billed as a new entertainment cabaret for the 80s hopes to smash through the barriers created by restrictions inherent in conventional methods of presenting art, music, and performances. The eight-act show of New York dancers, musicians and video artists will converge at the Concert Hall Saturday night with the spirit of collaboration and participation as its guide. More like a 60s happening than a concert or video show, this event promises to take people places they never dreamt of.

All of the participating artists on this tour (which began June I on the Staten Island Ferry) are active members of Kitchen, a music performance and video gallery in downtown New York. Emphasizing multidisciplinary art activity, the members of the Kitchen are a group of specialists who share in the desire to cross over into other medium of expression. Such notables as John Cage, Philip Glass, Merce Cunningham, David Byrne, Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson are regular contributors to this cause, using all mediums to inform the public of their work, making it more accessible and attaching to it the status of enterainment.

And this collaboration should be entertaining if the diverselineup of artists is any indication. Eric Bogosian, a performing artist who has been known to transform himself into everything from a drill sergeant to a sick comic to the chairman of a jogger’s club; the ‘original rapper” Fab Five Freddie, a founding member of the graffitti squad and creator of the rap on Blondie’s singleRapture; Lisa Fox, former member of Merce Cunningham Dance Company and film collaborator; Julia Heyward, performance and video artist, joined by T-Venus; Oliver Lake, reggae musician and founder of JumpUp!; and David Van Tieghem, percussionist for David Byrne, Brian Eno and Twyla Tharp.

The main reason for holding this event is to benefit Mercer Union. But it is hoped that it will benefit the Toronto art community as well. Give it a shot in the arm. Wake people up and bolster the creative spirit. Independent producer Peter Lynch put it this way: “Toronto is a significant date because it is the last of the tour and it is the only time aside from the opening show on the boat that is has been performed in one night. Peter Gordon (musician and video artist) is flying in just for this performance. It gives it sort of a bookend effect. The two biggest performances at the beginning and the end. “And it’s incredible that we were able to pull it off in this fashion, both from the standpoint of it coming together for us so fast and that we’re squeezing it together into one event. In other cities, generally midwestern U.S. it was split into two.”

So the emphasis will be on careful orchestration as well as freedom. Each performance takes place individually, but the artists intermingle at will. Each evening develops in a unique way, gaining momentum and increasing participation of not only artists but the audience.

None of the performers worry about anything specific – musician, painter, dancer. They, like the audience, are just persons in a space performing, experiencing and using any means to get their message across. It is the work, not the personality, that should get the most consideration.

In the Kitchen Sync show, technology is of prime importance in achieving this end. If you’re interested in the state of the art in experimental video, this will be the place to be.

A lot of these pieces are intensely radical and highly conceptual but indicate a leaning toward video that incorporates mainstream impulses while keeping up their own rigorous purposes and standards. While the usual TV content is rejected, many traditional-style images are retained and used in new ways – the most exciting aspect of the videos I previewed is that there is no real single direction.

A huge video screen will descend between sets, and the video version of the show’s artists will accompany live action. Interspersed will be such gems as Laurie Anderson’s O Superman, the John Sunborn tape Ear To The Ground, in which Van Tiegham “plays” New York City, using its urban terrain as a vast drum kit. Or TV Commercials For Artists (video art as self-promotion)30 second spots in which the artist’s miked skull is amplified and played as a percussion instrument. Or two sets of hands doing a rhythm piece. Or freaky, meticulously edited fragments from the Olympics.

It’s all rapid fire, high-tech, spaced out, futurist, cerebral. The concept is designed to make you use all your sensations, to make you dance in your seat as much as the reggae of Oliver Lake and the rap of Fab Five Freddy is designed to make you dance with your body.

“What this group brings, I’m realizing, is intensity,” Freddy told NOW from lowa City, the third-to-the-last stop in the tour. “These people are energy. And they represent the extreme corners of New York pop culture. We’re all on a bus and going way, way out. Last night Julia Heward discovered she could manipulate my echo box. And at the end of the night we got every guitarist in the place on stage and had a guitar blitz. It was very intense, very heavy.”

“To me this show is like a magnifying glass. It focuses on different areas of art and culture and make it available to people who’ve never seen rap. Presented an original style – the only style – with no fake flamboyance. Just good, real speaking. The essence of the rap. And it gets better as we go, speaks louder on the situation, makes you fantasize on the reality. What it will become by the time it hits Toronto, is a monumental piece. A serious burst of fresh new things that has been taken on the road.”

The road ends, at least physically, in Toronto. But the collaborative spirit, it is hoped, will carry on. The enthusiasm for this event has been rampant in town. It is as if the vast spectrum of organizational power has come to together and integrated much like the performers themselves.

Another independent producer of the event, Ranya Onasick remarks: “I’m amazed at the response. Everybody is involved. We have no funding from grants. All of the help we’ve received has been from corporations or small businesses.”

The Fiesta is donating TV dinners. AGO, normally a staid and massively mainstream institution, is showcasing Lisa Fox and David Van Tieghem. The Voodoo and the Rivoli are donating their space. It’s like rock energy comes to Carling O’Keefe. There is a deliberateness in the desire for a high Toronto profile, to establish it as an active and powerful force in the international art and performance community.

The philosophy of participation has also been well served by the community. After all the acts have done their thing Saturday night the Concert Hall will turn into an after-hours club and the gang at the Cameron, Voodoo, the Rivoli, the Dub Club and others will troop down to enjoy music communication until daylight. Sunday the performers from the show will split up and perform individually or in groups at various sites in metro.

Fab Five Freddy complained that at some dates there were seats in the hall.

“That’s antithetic to what we want to do. It is inconceivable to me that people could go through a show like this sitting down. The whole idea is to move to the rhythm with your head and your body. Where I come from the real dub boys come right up to front to swing with the energy. To defy the conventional. None of this sitting down shit, but move with the groove. ”

The Concert Hall has no seats on the main floor. The Brooklyn born street artist and rapper promises to blow the roof off. Maybe he will find himself a home away from home.