HarSMedia

Rage, rafts & refugees
On Michael Ghent's Dérive and all that came with it

august 13 , 2018


« l’Economie libérale, le libre marché,
ce bateau sur lequel nous sommes embarqués
comme autant de joyeuses brebis
sortant du camion pour entrer à l’abattoir,
ce bateau coule, a coulé. »

( * )

The saviour machine

Two years ago, in 2016, the year of the 200th birthday of the infamous shipwreck of the French frigate Méduse, that on the 2nd July 1816 ran aground on a sandbank off the West African coast, Michael Ghent (Street Level Industries) took it upon him to build a full three dimensional version of the iconic image that is the reason why so many of us do know about this long ago disaster. It is, in general, also what we know about it. Far less are aware of the many sordid details of the dramatic story that lead up to this one remaining scene.

The image I mean is that of 'The Raft of the Medusa', a monumental painting - often copied and even more parodied - that was made, at the age of 27, only a few years before his untimely demise, by French Romantic star painter Théodore Géricault (1791–1824).

Géricault's grave

Michael Ghent produced, through one and a half year of painstakingly precise work underground at the Parisian La Générale Nord-Est, an impressively sculptured Medusa Raft, fully made from cardboard packaging picked and collected in the streets of Paris. Indeed, found cardboard boxes remain the signature material of the art that Michael produces, using the moniker Street Level Industries (for links see the little yellow caption below).

From January 28th until February 4th this year, during a week of events including concerts and an interdisciplinary seminar that accompanied the installation/exposition entitled Dérive, Michael's 3D Medusa Raft in cardboard was at the center of an icy cold La Générale, which even got colder because - as was the artist's wish - the door to the avenue de Parmentier was kept wide open, for all passers-by to drift in at will.

derive

derive

derive

« As good castaways, » Michael states, « we build a raft with everything that floats. A raft like the great lost vessel imagined as Noah's Ark, while the reality is closer to those children who live in a garbage dump, fighting each other and the seagulls to get at some half rotten fruits. We are like sharks gone mad with the taste of blood, or rather - in our case - with the smell of money. We are eager and waiting to snatch with our teeth anything that moves and bite around us so utterly wild and blindly that we end up attacking our own flesh. The moral drift that leads us to let thousands of refugees drown in the Mediterranean under the pretext that 'there is not enough for all' is an example of this kind of cannibalism. »

« The story of the Medusa raft continues to resonate, ever more loudly, in our days, as there is all reason to wonder whether anything has changed since then. The rich and the powerful agree and protect each other to divide the catch, and the others kill each other for some lousy leftover sardines. It's the same selfishness, the same arrogance, the same unscrupulous irresponsibility, the same narrow-minded short term thinking, the same, the same, the same! »

[ ^ ]

derive


Read about Michael Ghent / Street Level Industries on the SoundBlog:
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees
(2016, januari 25) - Trust Us
(2009, february 10) - Sweet dreams à la Comète 347

Read about Michael Ghent / Street Level Industries in Gonzo (Circus) [Dutch]:
Gonzo #145, mei/juni 2018 - De smaak van urine


[ ^ ]

...

During the first weeks of this year, preparing for the Dérive at La Générale, WeiWei and I learnt an awful lot both about Géricault's famous painting and, mainly through the reading of two of the survivors' extensive write-up ( * ), on what happened on the frigate and later on the raft. Corréard and Savigny's colourful report - the book and the authors inspired and actually helped Géricault stage the scene and composition of the painting - was translated into a great many languages and quickly made the raft's horrors known to the general public, causing a lot of stir and scandal with its great many juicy details of rage, killings and acts of cannibalism on the infernal saviour machine, where no more than one in ten managed to survive sea, sun, hunger, thirst, and their fellow castaways.

I re-visit most of the Medusa's story in quite some detail in De smaak van urine, my Dutch 'hoofd stuk' on Dérive and the Medusa raft in the May/June edition of Gonzo (circus) (the illustration that accompanies the essay is by Xenia Gottenkieny), and I will not repeat it here. I just let you look it up, haha, but do make sure that you do 😂...

gonzo raft

ETC

As part of the Dérive events a lot of live music was performed in the 'Général Fridge' as La G might have been called that week. With ETC we invited Jacques Foschia to come over to Paris around the same time, to join Anthony Carcone and me in some editing work that we had planned to do on the album that we recorded (in Paris) and mastered (in Brussels) three years years ago, in the summer of 2015 - another (no kidding) masterpiece, that, just like the (Topographic [Table) Topographique] vinyl for the time being remains unavailable. But I don't think I mentioned the ETC one before.

Anyway.

ETC did a fine performance on the Dérive stage on the exhibition's vernissage Sunday, February 3.

ETC derive

The Dérive week at La G quite obviously was not a Vieux Media Fest per se, but much of its content - including Michael's cardboard - would not have been misplaced there. Most readers will be well aware of the tongue-in-cheek-ness of the vieux media label, and Rébus actually did program a parallel Winter Vieux Media Residency, and in many cases it was intentionally kept sort of vague what belonged to what... So there's more than merely a chronological reason for this entry's being between the previous and the next one. (yes, yes, yes 😂😇😂) ... Analog synths, tube radio's ... and the hurdy-gurdy, which was played by Emmanuelle Parennin on February 1st in her trio with Christiane Bob (trombone) and Jean-Marc Foussat (electronics).

trio derive

unPublic #49

A Vieux Media dérive was the perfect alibi to, after (too) many years, have our fellow Dikta-tor Rinus van Alebeek drift over to Paris for a couple of days. Rinus made an audio report of his wintery vieux media residency at La G, aired by the as immer wonderful Radio On from Berlin: Four Days in Paris, using "a handheld cassette walkman to record events as they unfolded." [ You might still catch the show some time or other... just keep an eye on the schedule. ]

Among the passers-by that came drifting in through the wide open La G gates was an Iranian musician and instrument maker. He had brought his daf (دف‎). He told us his name was Ali, and that he was looking for places in Paris where he could play his music.

Ali Najafimehri joined Michael, Lauren Rodz, Rinus, Anthony, Emmanuel, WeiWei & me on Saturday evening, when after closing La Générale's doors we stayed on another couple of hours, playing and singing below/around and inspired by the cardboard Medusa raft, unpublicly.

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49

uP 49


Read about unPublic on the SoundBlog:

(2018, september 01) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [iv] (uP#54)
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees (uP#49, uP#50)
(2018, august 10) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [iii] (uP#45)
(2017, june 11) - Moving out, of, on ... [ii] (uP#42)
(2016, june 10) - unPublic #18 - 대부도 (Daebu-Do), 14 June 2015 (uP#18)
(2016, may 07) - In Praise of Slowness (uP#21)
(2015, july 15) - Bridges, troubles, water (uP#19)
(2015, april 14) - Mal-là--colisé dans l'espace et dans le temps (uP#16)
(2014, august 02) - Appearance and Reality (uP#8)
(2014, march 08) - "12 - 11 - 9 - 10 - 3 - 6 - 7 - 1 - 2 - 8 - 4 - 5" (uP#5)
(2013, december 31) - Candles, Cassettes & Champagne (uP#4)
(2013, november 23) - unPublic 1, 2 (sauf riverains) (uP#1, uP#2)


Read about unPublic in Gonzo (Circus) [Dutch]:

Gonzo #143, januari/februari 2018 - Met kop noch staart: muzhakdag! (uP#48)
Gonzo #139, mei/juni 2017 - De waan, de wil, de weg


To listen, download & support, visit unPublic @ Bandcamp.


Finissage ~ Diktat

We met Ali a third time encore, on Sunday February 4th, the eight and final day of Michael Ghent's Dérive at La G, when as a surprise addition to the finissage's program he did a highly enthusiast & energetic solo performance with his daf.

derive

Ali's solo came next to an amazing duet, featuring Jean Bordé on double bass and Michael Ghent on bowed-'n'-picked thumb piano, assorted springs & metal things, contact mikes, electronics.

derive

Then, among that and this and that, this finissage day of Dérive at La Générale provided the setting for the first DIKTAT performance in more than three (3!) years...

It was a triple bill.

For the first volet of this Dikta-trilogy, late afternoon, we literally and ritually played around the cardboard raft, in the midst of the afternoon visitors strolling around the raft. Jean with his bass and the other three of us with handheld devices, sounding at not much more than a conversational volume, thus restricting the reach of each of our sounds to a pretty small and localised circle, like so many a castaway's murmured hopes and fears.

radeau

diktat

diktat

diktat

radeau

In the icy evening cold, towards the very end of the eight days of cardboard dérive, we took to the small front stage next to the open door, for two more parts. First - it was the second volet of our trilogy - as a quartet; and then finally as a quintet, joined by Michael Ghent. A very special occasion indeed, though there were near to none that took notice. But those that did, they were the lucky ones, haha. For that evening, Diktat, set up like a ghost band to perform in a long abandoned saloon, still, though barely, standing among the ruins of a village struck by whatever disaster you'd like to imagine, proved that after ten (10), eleven (11), twelve (12), thirteen (13) years, they indeed have become thé masters of pure sounding ephemerality. Where in this world other than La G could one go to acquire such unlikely & uncommon tastes?

diktat

diktat


Read about Diktat on the SoundBlog:
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees
(2014, july 01) - Speculative Dancing - Diktat - americana / 2
(2012, october 20) - Audio monitoring the Watergate Hotel - Diktat - americana / 1
(2012, august 11) - Diktat outside/inside the Manufactured Normalcy Field
(2012, february 19) - Magnetic Remanence
(2011, August 05) - (I can't get no) Immediate Satisfaction - Diktat in Berlin [iii]
(2011, Juli 31) - 'Komm raussi!' - Diktat in Berlin [ii]
(2011, Juli 29) - 'Where ist Ausland?' - Diktat in Berlin [i]
(2009, february 10) - DIKTAT's "Sturm der Liebe"
(2006, april 7) - The birth of Diktat


Listen to Diktat:
(2016) - Tour de Force (Coherent States, CS-7)
(2012) - DIKTAT in Berlin


See & hear Diktat:
(2014) - 4 US Dances


one day after, unPubLic

On the day after, Michael carefully dismantled the cardboard Medusa raft and carried it down, in bits, figures and pieces, into the Générale's catacombs, where it lies awaiting a next public showing. That is sort of sad. The piece would brilliantly fit many a contemporary art show, as well as any of the big entrance halls and reception rooms that the French government uses daily to welcome their foreign guests. Or whatever government of whichever of our wealthy sister states. Little doubt though that such an act in our current world continues to be a no-no ...

radeau

radeau

radeau

While the raft and its cardboard castaway passengers went down again, Rinus, Rébus and me went up, to La G's empty higher quarters, where the three of us marked the wrapping up of another one of our too rare togethers unpublicly. It was the third unPublic that happened upstairs at La G, after #4 - Champagne, Candles & Cassettes and #32 - The Logic of Freedom, and the 50th in total.

It took us 50 minutes.

Then from there we drifted on.

...


Epilogue

Of course WeiWei and I also wanted to see the original canvas, that soon after Géricault's death was acquired by the Louvre. However, we only managed to see it there after the Dérive events at La G had ended, because the room where the Raft of the Medusa is shown was closed for works until the end of February. Actually, Géricault's masterpiece seems to be in dire need of at least cleaning and some repairs. I guess it's a rather fragile canvas. In the photograph below it was lighted up quite a bit in my laptop's photo editor. In reality, when you see it, it is as if covered by a brownish gray veil, which I doubt is what the original colours were. It's a monster, measuring 491 cm in height and 716 cm across.

Le Radeau de la Méduse

[ ^ ]

...

[ A great many of the pictures in this entry were shot by Yungwei Chen ]

...

notes __ ::
(*) Alexandre Corréard, Jean Baptiste Savigny. La naufrage de la frégate de la Méduse, faisant partie de l'expédition du Sénégal, en 1816. 5ème édition, A Paris Chez Corréard Libraire, 1821.
book[ ^ ]

tags: Dérive, Michael Ghent, Street Level Industries, La Générale, Medusa, unPublic, ETC, Diktat

# .481.





SoundBlog entries around and about La Générale Nord-Est:

(2018, september 01) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [part iv]
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees
(2018, august 10) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [part iii]
(2018, july 21) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete... [part ii]
(2018, april 10) - La Générale Nord-Est (PAMP18-1)
(2017, august 19) - t'Obsolete or not t'Obsolete ... [part i]
(2016, august 04) - Nicolas Collins - 2 April 2016, La Générale
(2015, july 15) - Bridges, troubles, water - unPublic #19
(2014, april 08) - La physicalité du son. Tome 1.
(2013, december 13) - Candles, Cassettes & Champagne - unPublic #4
(2010, december 29) - Obsolescence
(2010, august 14) - "And what about Yi Sang?" (... à Paris [iv])
(2010, june 29) - Ceremonies (Yi Sang à Paris [iii])
(2010, june 25) - Read me a poem, Yi Sang! (Yi Sang à Paris [ii])
(2010, june 13) - Yi Sang à Paris [i]
(2010, january 13) - Art fleas (puces de l'art)
(2009, july 20) - General Acoustics
(2006, august 14) - placard : la générale (Belleville)


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