Asco and Geoffrey Farmer

Asco and Geoffrey Farmer

Nottingham Contemporary

Left: Geoffrey Farmer, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black, 2013. Exhibition view, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. Photo: Stefan Altenburger, Zurich. Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver, and Casey Kaplan, New York. Right: Asco, Walking Mural, 1972. © Harry Gamboa Jr.

October 12, 2013

No Movies

Geoffrey Farmer

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black
12 October 2013–5 January 2014

Nottingham Contemporary
Weekday Cross

Asco was a Chicano artist collective active in East Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, with a core membership of four: Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie F. Herrón III and Patssi Valdez. In their later years Asco numbered a few dozen artists, acquiring the characteristics of a movement. The importance of Asco to the recent art history of Los Angeles has only been belatedly recognized.

Meeting in high school, their work emerged out of the Chicano (Mexican-American) civil rights struggle of the late ’60s, but contrary to the aesthetics of the Chicano Movement, Asco injected fiction into the socio-political reality of their immediate environment. Theirs was a unique performative language that borrowed from B-movies, then nascent glam rock, telenovelas and Happenings. Their performances were often made to be photographed, and the resulting images anticipated the concerns of postmodern constructed photography of the late 1970s and 1980s. While their imagery was often linked to fantasy and fiction, many of their performances occurred without permission or notice on the site of and in the immediate aftermath of a violent incident in their neighborhood—the site of fatal shootings of demonstrators by the Los Angeles Police Department in one instance.

This exhibition, Asco’s first solo show in Europe, curated by Irene Aristizábal and Alex Farquharson, is a collaboration with de Appel arts center in Amsterdam and CAPC Contemporary Art Museum, Bordeaux. It builds on the precedent of their recent acclaimed retrospective Asco: Elite of the Obscure, curated by Rita Gonzalez and C. Ondine Chavoya on behalf of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Williams College Museum of Art.

On this occasion, Patssi Valdez has been in residence remaking a performance and installation, Paper Fashion Show (1980). Several of their most iconic works are being presented on a large scale for the first time. A documentary film directed by Alvaro Parra made with and about Asco has been commissioned.

Alongside Asco, Nottingham Contemporary presents Geoffrey Farmer’s most technically ambitious work to date, a mechanical play performed across two exhibition spaces. Presented in its emerging form at the REDCAT Gallery in Los Angeles in 2011, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black (2013) has been fully realised through a commission by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich, Nottingham Contemporary, Kunstverein Hamburg and Pérez Art Museum Miami. A large population of idiosyncratic sculptures—some assembled and transformed from movie props—make for a surreal pop cultural landscape. Their subtly animated movements, and the changing coloured light that bathes them, are determined by a self-generating musical score.

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black—named after an iconic 1968 Frank Zappa track—is anchored in the legendary American musician’s avant garde, musique concrète-inspired approach to rock, and the counter-culture music scene in Los Angeles of the 1960s to which he belonged. The performance is organised around a library of collected musical samples, Foley sounds and field recordings which relate to Zappa’s influences, to the physical environment he once occupied, and Farmer’s own interpretations of Zappa’s biography. Computer algorithms recompose the soundtrack each day, one day equating with Zappa’s life span. Farmer’s compositional techniques emulate the cut-up methods of William S. Burroughs and Edgar Varèse, as well as Zappa’s own Xenochrony, meaning ‘strange time.’

Farmer thinks of the whole installation as a single musical instrument. The work each day is unique and unpredictable. The result of an involved research process, the project further develops Farmer’s uncanny and performative approach to excavating large zones of obscured cultural memory and mixing these with personal insights and events from his own life.

The opening week features a series of events with exhibiting artists Harry Gamboa Jr., Patssi Valdez and Geoffrey Farmer. Other Public Programme highlights include the interdisciplinary symposium “Shimmering, Shining, Vomiting, Glitter, The Poetics & Politics of Disgust.” Please visit the Talks and Film section of our website for full details.


Asco and Geoffrey Farmer at Nottingham Contemporary
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Nottingham Contemporary
October 12, 2013

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