Hypaethral (2015, 12:18, HD)

In reading Kay Larson’s Where the Heart Beats an epic book about John Cage and the inner life of artists, I came across an excerpt of a 1952 article by art critic Harold Rosenberg. In it he observed that for American painters the canvas began to appear as “an arena in which to act – rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze or ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.” I was intrigued by this idea of art as process rather than an end product intended for another’s half-hearted consumption. In the end it is our relationship to our work as a means of “self-alteration” as John Cage referred to his art, that is paramount.

The ether is filled with slumbering music, echoes of our modern age. In the spirit of John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 4, I was interested in hearing the invisible and allowing the unseen to permeate my being and my work. To allow a greater degree of the environment to penetrate my work. Each shot of this film is accompanied by a stereo recording of the audible ambience of the location in which it was filmed as well as a recording of the inaudible (to the ear) ambience which I captured using a $20 AM/FM radio.

To allow even more space for the world to breathe life into the work while leaving less room for my ego to fill it, I employed chance operations to determine certain aspects of the work. I used an iPhone app created by random.org which generates random numbers from atmospheric noise to determine the duration of each shot in this 40-scene film. For the music accompaniment I used an iPhone app called Xynthesizr which randomly generates music based on the mathematical principle known as Conway’s Game of Life and various other parameters such as the music scale, instrument, beats per minute, etc. I used the random.org app once again to determine 32 single notes based on the major pentatonic scale that would make up the first 8 measures or the infancy of the score from which Xynthesizr would then evolve the score from.

Finally, borrowing from a term used to describe the temples of ancient Egypt which were designed to be open to the heavens, I chose to name the piece Hypæthral from the Greek for “under” and “ether.”

Patrick Shen