Edited by Andrew Fenchel and Andrew Lampert
The event score, a format born out of the Fluxus band in the 1960s, is typically a “recipe for one- or two-line action,” as artist Alison Knowles describes it. The ten contributors to Folio Lamp, released by the Chicago-based Experimental Arts Association of the same name, expands these parameters to incorporate visuals, lengthy text, and the instructional document itself, resulting in highly sensitive scores and imagination. Edited by Lampo director Andrew Fenchel and artist, critic and archivist Andrew Lampert, Folio is housed in a slim container in the palest shade of mint green. It consists of an introduction and ten scores, each relayed on a large loose sheet of paper folded in half. Ordered during the pandemic, these scores »[create] new steps in domestic spaces, and [are] a way to think about the social conditions of performance, especially at a time when family life and shared experiences have been disrupted,” write Fenchel and Lampert.
The event score works according to the logic of musical notation and text; even if the viewer does not literally carry out their instructions, simply reading the notation allows a series of visualizations to unfold. It has coiled potential, transforming as it is iterated over time and space. Fenchel and Lampert cite Knowles, George Brecht, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young and other members of the Fluxus group as pioneers of the form, but they note that the contributors to Folio were encouraged to push the score of the event beyond the “short texts and simple gestures” that characterize its most famous examples.
One method of complicating the score of the event was to imagine that the actors in the scores were performing simultaneously, though they were invisible to each other in their isolated spaces. Accordingly, each contributor was asked to choose a time of day when their piece should be performed. This request resulted in the choice of wittily subjective times, such as “after dinner (but before dessert)” and “when the shadows are long enough, giving all objects at least twenty percent extra length”. The promise of competing experiences, however imaginary or personalized, imbues the scores with an optimistic sense of collectivity.
The materiality of folded paper also plays a key role in the complexity of Folio, in direct opposition to the idle viewing dynamic created by streaming performances, a common (and necessary) form during the pandemic. Freed from the passive position of spectator, the reader/interpreter is invited to bend, turn over and, in certain cases, modify the scores themselves. Nikita Gale Producer asks performers to manipulate shapes by rotating, halving and joining sections of the sheet in a puzzle-like challenge. by Jessie Marino whorl requires the actors to trace shapes with a pointed instrument, forming raised patterns which are then “played” with the actor’s fingers. If they do not ask the performers to transform the sheet, the works of Sergei Tcherepnin Release the Beluga Night and Sarah Hennies work for the heat provide carefully sequenced instructions for producing sounds with homemade instruments, while Nour Mobarak Private socket uses silence as a key element of the composition, inviting the actors to recite a hallucinatory poem while wearing earplugs. As the performer turns the pages, new intricate layers of these scores are revealed.
In other works, ratings have been produced based on chance and the results of external systems. by Lampert Intraday shows ninety-two charts documenting Spotify’s stock price fluctuation between noon and 1 p.m. on May 13, 2021. Performers are expected to play their chosen instruments using the charts, price or variations percentage as indications of increase or decrease in pitch; the artist warns them that “like the stock market, this music is unpredictable and can be volatile”. Inspired by her past as a “broken student” reading reviews of records she couldn’t afford to buy, Jennifer Walshe’s A BOILING MAELSTROM OF WOODS REVERBERATION used an AI trained on album reviews to generate textual scores that unfold like scrambled, wizarding poems. Piling similes (“like the soundtrack of a movie about death”, “like a heaving field of crop circles of pent-up emotion”) alongside repetitive invocations of “dark” and “buzzy” basses, the stuck phrases reach their own strange rhythms.
I found scores that revolved around imaginations and absences to be the most powerful, evoking situations and temporalities just out of reach. To stage Bonnie Jones Tetraphobia: a ritual for now, the performers must evoke a sound from childhood, contemplate it and then attempt to play it in front of an audience. Inside the fold of the sheet is a photocopy of what are presumably Jones’ adoption papers from South Korea, in a gesture of sharing his own past. by Elliot Reed UNITED SUPER DETERGE PER HOUSTON 91-01-27 asks the performer to sit in the bathroom, with the shower on and a lit candle, listening to Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The actor has to imagine the United States cleaning up as the song plays. The instructions view this act of sonic and psychic cleansing with mute hope: “After Whitney’s final grade, the United States will most likely be clean. The interpreter of the same drollery of Gala Porras-Kim A score for exercises in chronesthesiavisualized as graph paper with a circle “sinking” below the horizon as the pages are turned, should begin their work at sundown, thinking intently of someone else who might also be following the score. The piece is made “when a connection is made through thought”, an event so intense that “blindness can occur”. This warning, however ironic, symbolizes the mixture of deadpan and possibility that best characterizes the score of the event. What worlds could the interpreter unlock, if he really tried?