David Askevold


MY PERSONAL COSMOLOGY of Conceptualism starts with snakes: David Askevold’s Kepler’s Music of the Spheres Played by Six Snakes, 1971–74, to be exact. As a student at CalArts in 1977, a time when the art department was known for its Conceptual slant—in retrospect, this could have been the last gasp of the last American “ism”—I heard Askevold lecture on the work. Even when conveyed only in slides and audio, Kepler’s Music of the Spheres struck me as a stunning installation; it mixes elements of performance, music, and homemade apparatus, featuring suspended live snakes that play a number of specially tuned string instruments with ball bearings. The work’s struggle between ideas and physicality, slithering back and forth, is a vivid example of Conceptualism and seemed at the time to present its possible future. It’s a Rube Goldberg contraption that aims to shed light on the larger

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