Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Running with the Mob

Mobtown Modern's "State of the Union" @ Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together
Vinko Globokar: ?Corporel
Steve Reich: Come Out
Erik Spangler: Iraq Mix
Louis Andriessen: Workers Union

With video footage remixed from that "other" State of the Union delivered just the night before as a backdrop and an ensemble in combat boots the fine young subversives of Mobtown Modern launched their first performance with a focus on politically themed pieces. Any organization that kicks off with Rzewski's classic "Coming Together" has my full attention.

The sequencing of pieces was brilliant. With an edge toward radical posture balanced against progressive optimism this was a perfect context to absorb the timeless urgency of "Coming Together" or "Come Out" compared to Spangler's contemporary statement on Iraq. It was the transition from one piece into another that was especially powerful. As the final words from the Attica prison inmate in "Coming Together" was hanging in the air the room fell dark for Tim Feeney's performance of ?Corprel. Illuminated by a single flashlight, the sense of madness and isolation took on an abruptly human and disturbing form as Feeney performed percussive and vocal feats upon his own body. The video ambiance of an administration that has brought "waterboarding" into common vernacular set against the unsettling violence of Globokar's performance-art composition made for an unflinching statement.

Louis Andriessen's Workers Union is one of the most revered works in the HurdAudio pantheon. The way that piece demands an aggressive unity and rhythmic cohesion from a large ensemble makes for a beautifully loud expression of solidarity that feels substantial. In the hands of the Mobtown Modern that noise was expanded as the reasons why that masterpiece from 1975 endures filled the air.

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