Vinyl Terror & Horror, Off Track (detail), 2016–17, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Berlin-based Danish duo Vinyl Terror & HorrorGreta Christensen and Camilla Sřrensen—are currently participating in the exhibition “Anger,” along with artists Martin Erik Andersen and René Schmidt, at the Horsens Kunstmuseum in Horsens, Denmark. For their installation Off Track, 2016–17, they present an untidy array of sounds and objects, which they discuss here. The show is on view through May 28, 2017.

OUR APPROACH synchronizes well with the theme of this exhibition. We often work with ideas of destruction, violence, fear, and anger, which are usually expressed in a materially dark and humorous way. We began working with sculpture and then we both started wanting to play and make music. Using sound is a way of producing a metaspace that responds to a more emotional center of the brain. A part of our practice is playing live concerts. Whereas the installations are more composed, when we perform, there’s just stacks of modified or broken vinyl, various record players, and us.

For this show, Camilla cut up various LPs of violin recordings and worked with violinist George Kentros, who transcribed it into notes and played the resultant piece. That has been made into a vinyl record, for which Greta shot out the center hole with a .308 caliber gun from a distance of 150 feet. She took shooting lessons for a year to perfect this task. Other elements of the installation include two speakers crashing into each other on a fifteen-foot semicircular track, and a robotic broom hammering the underside of a turntable mounted near the ceiling, making the needle skip on a record. Another turntable revolves by itself, playing a stationary record damaged by gunshot holes. A twenty-eight-second video loop shows Hetna Regitze Bruun singing opera while being repeatedly shoved in the back, in time with a revolving record.

Our installations appear to be on the edge of collapse—the objects have changed from having high fidelity to almost breaking down. We also built a speaker that seems to fall apart and then reassemble itself, and record players that are cut in half but still function. It’s rare that we use speakers that don’t have something that’s been changed on them. Every speaker has its own sound related to what it is doing. For instance, a speaker mounted in the ceiling plays the sound of water dripping, as a motor slowly lowers the unit down toward the floor. Another speaker moves underneath the floor playing the sound of footsteps. Often the speakers represent the presence of a body or specific activity. Isolated from the installation, these individual sculptures make little sense, but within the show they all play their role in a composed narrative where bits of horror movie sound sequences, opera, German Schlager, and Swedish folk music contrast with their slapstick construction and stripped-down aesthetic.

There are lots of references to horror movies in our works, but the sounds from them—creaking doors, footsteps, raindrops—are often combined with samples from records, which might be visibly playing. We never reference a specific movie but want to just give a feeling of a story being told. And this is why we try to use as little as possible to illustrate the sound so that you are transported somewhere else in your imagination. The sounds build up expectations of what’s going to happen, increasing a sense of tension as if your worst nightmare could be around the corner.

— As told to Mark Harris

Vanessa Place, 2013. Photo: Patrick Greaney.

Vanessa Place is a writer, artist, and criminal defense attorney who currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Her 2010 book The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality, and Law critically examined the laws and punitive measures currently employed in the US regarding sex crimes, in addition to proposing that we expand our conception of “rape culture” into an understanding of culture broadly. She has for the past year been touring a recent work, a set of rape jokes, If I Wanted Your Opinion, I’d Remove the Duct Tape, 2016–, which she performed most recently in the Nu Performance Festival in Tallinn, Estonia, and at the Swiss Institute in New York.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT INTERESTS ME A GREAT DEAL WHEN I WORK WITH SOUND, especially sound installations, is thinking about the bodies that are receiving it. A lot of sound art seems to envision an empty gallery and people standing there, ideally situated, as opposed to thinking of them as more liquid sculptures. The rape-jokes piece was initially supposed to be in a group show in LA—I was canceled after some of the other artists complained—but I was looking forward to how it would have played in a very long corridor, which, as you walked through it, would have triggered the jokes. The jokes would always be following you, starting a few seconds after you passed a motion sensor. And then the more people that would be there, the more the jokes would pile up on each other. But if you stood still and didn’t move, they would stop. You have to run away or freeze, which are the two favorite choices when confronted with a traumatic situation. When you introduce a figure, the body of the performer or the artist, what ends up happening is that everything is subject to interpellation through that body, and what that body signifies. And rightly so. If it’s a book, you can close it at any given moment. It’s hard to stop listening to something. We can’t close our eyes—so to speak—to sound. Sound behaves sculpturally.

The structure of a joke, according to Freud, is that it is a sudden discharge of repression, often sexual, often kind of obscene. And so, in that way, the joke itself ends up being structured, or ends up having the same structure, as a rape—a violent discharge of repressed sexuality. During an event once, I said something along the lines of, “We can assume that a certain percentage of people in the room have been the victims of sexual violence…” But then I added, “…and the perpetrators.” Statistically speaking, it’s true. And another bit of violence. The history of the joke and the tradition of jokes have always been wrapped up with questions of power. But at this moment when people—especially on the left, which includes many people in arts communities—are feeling embattled and less powerful, or with less hope, let’s say, which is another form of power in a sense, the idea of the joke becomes more useful. Something that occurred to me is that Conceptualism in writing has always come to the fore in times of apparent but degenerate totalitarianism. In Chile, it was during the 1970s under Pinochet, and Moscow during the same period—it’s usually right before things fall apart.

Our culture is rape culture. Our culture is racist culture. I don’t know if the United States, for example, could exist without racism. It certainly hasn’t been able to historically—sometimes the heat is turned up, sometimes turned down, but there’s always a certain simmering. We’ve created these internal divides and we seem to like our internal divides. When you see people saying, “We’re all immigrants,” you immediately know that we are not all immigrants—some of us were refugees, some of us were chattel. The thing with rape culture is that rape is like winning the bad-luck lottery. There are things you can do to improve your chances and there are things you can do to reduce your chances, but we’re all in the lottery. Rape is actually a judgment about something—it’s a verdict. You’re convicted of rape. Rape isn’t a thing, so to speak, but a frame. And an encounter, like a joke.

Vanessa Place performs If I Wanted Your Opinion, I’d Remove the Duct Tape, 2016–, for 500 Words.

One of the things that aesthetics can do is conjure that encounter, where in some ways, the stakes are very low. Nobody’s going to end up dead in a ditch; a rape joke isn’t a rape. But in another sense the stakes end up being very high, because it’s a confrontation with oneself all the time, and what I’ve found with my practice is people often react very angrily to being put in that position, no matter how much discourse there is around the audience’s or the viewer’s being responsible for the interpretation of a work. They—we—want frames. Instead, I make traps and stand in them and wave, and often get caught, but that’s part of standing in a trap. To me, that’s more illuminating than acting as if I could stand outside of the trap, or fashion the frame. We all have our own traps, which we bait with what we like and which are baited with things we like. If we could agree on our complicity, then there might be a possibility of having a different kind of conversation. There’s a fantasy of possible purity, or exculpation, which is even worse. Violence isn’t going anywhere, and it’s very useful in many respects, psychically as well as physically. And given that that’s part of our repertoire, how do we want to deploy it?

I don’t like work that really just confirms, generally speaking, what I thought before I saw it. To be affirmed that I’m right is the place that one occupies anyway, and then it’s just a question of where you’re going to have dinner after. But to be confronted by the possibility that I’m wrong, or the possibility that I need to rethink things—that’s very upsetting. It seems we’re living in a time when it’s simply a war of affect. People just bring their affect to the table—you bring yours and I bring mine, and we have an affect face-off. The difficulty becomes that, as I heard a woman say much to my horror, although I think she’s right, “All I have are my feelings.” Feelings don’t change—we just add more evidence to support them.

I once said my work is giving people what they didn’t know they didn’t want, but now they do. It’s the cruel gift of giving the thing they did not want to see or hear. Maybe, deep down, I just like people and want to make them happy.

— As told to Paige K. Bradley

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Work/Travail/Arbeid, 2015. Performance view, Wiels Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, April 8, 2015. Photo: Herman Sorgeloos.

Choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has staged dance in museums before, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2011 and the Tate Modern’s Tanks in London in 2012. With Work/Travail/Arbeid, 2015, which premiered at the Wiels Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, and then traveled to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London, she has created a piece that is presented differently in each exhibition space. For six hours a day, March 29 through April 2, 2017, her dance company Rosas and the musicians from the ensemble Ictus will be performing the site-specific piece at the Museum of Modern Art. Workshops will be offered on the dance’s basic vocabulary and movement phrases.

WORK/TRAVAIL/ARBEID WAS FIRST PRESENTED as a nine-week exhibition at Wiels, which is literally down the street from where our company practices in Brussels. When the invitation came from Elena Filipovic and Dirk Snauwaert to create a new work, I was in full rehearsal for Vortex Temporum, a piece I choreographed in 2013 to the music of French spectralist composer Gérard Grisey. I began thinking about how this work would be perceived outside the condensed time and limited space of a codified theater performance, with dancers working during normal hours, in daylight. During rehearsal I don’t always sit in front but travel around the space in a circular way, watching and constructing sequences step by step, layer by layer. So before the black-box piece Vortex Temporum was made, I already had a desire to somehow include the audience. With Work/Travail/Arbeid, we literally shifted Vortex from black to white; from night to day; from artificial light to natural light; from distance to proximity; from fixity to fluidity.

One of the basic principles of Vortex Temporum, and of Work/Travail/Arbeid, is that each dancer is linked to a musician—there’s a piano player, a flute player, a clarinet player, and three string players. The visual counterpoint is built by following the music very closely, almost awkwardly so. That sort of close relationship is usually antithetical to contemporary dance: It is quite different from the Merce Cunningham and John Cage relationship, for example, where music and dance are completely independent, where chance decides which visual information coincides with which musical information. In this piece, the dance moves are an almost immediate kinetic response to the music. But the complexity of Grisey’s counterpoint approach seemed to avoid any old-fashioned redundancy. Most dance audiences and visual-art audiences perceive it as difficult music. It’s dense, there’s an absence of regular beat, and harmonically it’s extremely dissonant. This music is hard to categorize. Although it’s very structural, extremely layered, and complex, it’s still very natural and at moments even ritualistic. Based on his scientific research into sound, Grisey focused on the material attributes of sound, and eventually used procedures that are connected to Minimalism.

When the piece is performed you get a condensed version, highly contrapuntal, whereas in the white cube you get solos, duets, trios in different constellations, both musically and dance-wise. In the museum the audience are free to move and choose their places. Some people go to the side, some go right in the middle and sit in the vortex; they become part of the dance as soon as they move into the space, which is demarcated only by chalk lines. Children often start dancing. People perceive the energy and the labor that are being expended. In MoMA’s atrium there will be no art on the wall, just a clock and some ropes to draw circles on the ground, and these will be visible from the mezzanine. I’ve always been interested in circles. Spinning and turning are the most intuitive movements we execute when we dance. Circles also the most democratic geometric organization, with everyone the same distance from the middle.

The experience is in constant transformation. Over time there are different dancers, there are different combinations, and then of course the presence of the audience will have an effect. Even though the underlying geometry is precise and articulated, because of the physical presence of the audience it’s like water—it’s fluid, and the dancers adapt to the amount of mass and volume present in the space. There’s a nine-hour cycle that is choreographed, of roughly one-hour phases, and it shifts over the six hours that the museum is open. This means that if you come on Thursday at a specific time, the piece will look different than on Sunday at the same time.

— As told to Laura Hoffmann

Heide Hinrichs, On Some of the Birds of Nepal (Parting the Animal Kingdom of the East) (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Heide Hinrichs is a Brussels-based artist whose work will be featured in the debut Kathmandu Triennale, “The City, My Studio / The City, My Life,” curated by Philippe van Cauteren. For On Some of the Birds of Nepal (Parting the Animal Kingdom of the East), 2017, Hinrichs is bringing a volume of original drawings commissioned by Brian Hodgson between 1825 and 1857 from the Natural History Museum in London back to the place of its origin. The triennial is on view from March 24 through April 9, 2017.

THE IDEA OF CONFINEMENT in Brian Hodgson’s twenty-three years of being enclosed within the Kathmandu Valley, from 1820 to 1843, is a point of departure for my project. Hodgson was a junior officer for the British East India Company, and later the British Resident to Kathmandu. He was also an eminent naturalist. While John James Audubon was identifying and painting species of birds in America, Hodgson did his work in Nepal, an almost inaccessible place for its geographic seclusion.

Hodgson kept an aviary; hunters brought birds to him. He wrote scientific descriptions of the birds and commissioned drawings of them, mostly by anonymous Nepali artists, with the idea of publishing an illustrated book on the birds of Nepal. Only one of the artists, Raj Man Singh Chitrakar, is named in the book. The 738 renderings of 563 species were bound in six never-published volumes and were housed in the Natural History Museum of Britain. Seven of the species Hodgson selected are now extinct in the region, and one is most likely extinct worldwide.

Hodgson’s project might have been inspired by the idea of completion, whereas mine addresses implied personal, institutional, and symbolic relationships. Hodgson’s opus on Nepali birds included two appendix volumes, and I am bringing the larger of these two to Kathmandu. The drawings in this book are more diverse in style and they range from drawings made earlier in the project, in which birds were isolated on a background, to late drawings, where a stylized natural environment appears. I am interested in how these drawings act as worksheets, carrying descriptions and measurements. They include not only Hodgson’s handwriting but also that of the draftsmen, some with side-by-side translations. The visible working process imparts a quality of lightness that goes beyond pure documentation and traces the collaborative relationships that made the drawings a kind of a collective work.

On the ground floor of the Siddhartha Arts Gallery, the volume of The Birds of Nepal will be shown in a display case, opened to a single visible page. The other drawings in the volume will be shown as a slide projection on a suspended sheet of Nepali paper hung close to the display case. I will also make visible, as a sculptural part of my work, the machines monitoring the exhibition conditions—temperature, humidity, and light—that were requested in the loan agreement. Additionally, I am making a wall-size drawing in pencil, with imagery sourced from the volume on passerines, but the birds will be shown as negative spaces. Finally, there will be an installation made of silk threads in shades of blue, to which feathers from Nepali birds will be attached. The threads will reach from floor to ceiling and will be anchored by different ornithological field guides to the Indian subcontinent and Nepal from the past fifty years. The feathers will be gathered from local streets and parks.

As I thought about how and what to do for an exhibition in a country I have never been to and have yet to make a connection with, the relationship between the locals and Hodgson’s outsider status was a way for me to begin. I cannot assume what this gesture of bringing the drawings back to Kathmandu, a historic exchange, will mean from a local perspective, but that is something I want to figure out, in creating a space for encounter, an in-between space of communication.

— As told to Jo-ey Tang

Porpentine Charity Heartscape, With Those We Love Alive (screenshot), 2014.

Porpentine Charity Heartscape is a writer, game designer, and self-described dead swamp milf. In addition, she is a 2016 Creative Capital Emerging Fields and 2016 Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab fellow, a 2017 Prix Net Art awardee, and a 2017 Whitney Biennial participant. Here she speaks about her work on view at the Whitney, and discusses the origins of her hypertext narratives.

THERE’S SORT OF A MINIRETROSPECTIVE of my Twine stories in the Whitney Biennial. With Those We Love Alive is projected on one wall of a room. People can play it on a computer and they can draw their responses to the game on a tablet. Flanking it are some other key works on laptops. So it’s kind of a little arcade, net-café, hell-portal zone. Some of the stories are better known, like Cyberqueen and Howling Dogs, but some are kind of deep cuts, like Begscape. We were going for a balance between stuff that was notable and popular and stuff that’s also good to play in person—because those aren’t always the same thing.

It’s always been tricky to think about all this being exhibited. I do a lot of different work: I do a lot of visual work, I do graphical games—little critters plonking around a zone. But hypertext has always been extra tricky, because I always envision someone playing a hypertext game alone in their shitty apartment, on their computer in the dark, holed up and reclusive. But I’ve been lucky that a lot of people I’ve worked with have been very sensitive to my concerns, and done a good job setting up the works. I definitely hope people will check out my work at home in a more introspective way after bumping up against it in the museum setting. But I’ve also always been very interested in having words that are splintered up, so you see screens where there’s just a sentence or two of big text. I feel very claustrophobic when I’m stuck on a page full of words. So my hypertexts probably have an evolutionary advantage over other forms of text in that setting: People can walk by and see visceral, brief sentences.

One of the elements of With Those We Love Alive is that it asks players to draw things on themselves throughout the story in response to prompts—you’re instructed to draw sigils representing how you feel about what’s going on. Usually, a lot of the people encountering With Those We Love Alive choose to draw on their arms. That’s a very classic spot. I think that’s because the arm is a very convenient place, but also because it’s very expressive and powerful—and weaponized, in a way. Though I also really appreciate when people have drawn on their thighs, their feet, all over their body. Anyway, it’s not the preference of museum spaces to have pens and markers that can be used to draw on the environments. So having people draw on tablets was our compromise. I think it’ll be interesting to have these tablets create a communal drawing space as opposed to a personal one. A hundred thousand people have already experienced With Those We Love Alive online, so this will be your chance to play it and have other people be scrutinizing your every move, and also to have your decisions left behind, like graffiti.

I was just a little kid when I started making my first games. I would play console games, like Nintendo 64, and then I’d take index cards and make my own cargo cult versions of them. I’d draw little levels with pen, and then go to other kids, and I would tell them to play, while making decisions and telling them what happened.

I guess I later got into making hypertext narratives on Twine around when I was going through a lot of heavy stuff—a decade and a half of solid homelessness or displacement, and extremely bad shit. These games represented the simplest, most energy-efficient way I could transmute my feelings into something people could put inside their word hole.

I don’t know if video games are even the right framing. It’s confusing because, based on who’s looking at my stuff, they come away with a totally different impression of me and what format my Twines are. And they are kind of a patchwork of literature and game elements, but I’m most interested in the textural aspect of those formats rather than some idealized payload. I do love games. I think about them all the time, and they inform a huge part of my aesthetic. But the game industry tries to make something that someone can play forever. What they’re manufacturing is the promise that you will not have to consider the ruinous passage of time, if you just lock yourself inside a game.

A lot of what I make is so janky and short, pretty directly about being trapped as time passes, marking away the days, so those pieces kind of invert and unsettle that structure. It’s an unstable fantasy, it spits you back out and hopefully you had an interesting ecological interaction with it. Most of my emotions come from dreams, so I guess what I make is handmade dreams.

You could say there are a few reasons I make things. The frequency of thoughts I experience is so intense I have to lance them out somehow. It’s just this art-pus that’s constantly oozing up. And there’s so much poison I have to convert, have to turn into an atmosphere I can breathe, because I can’t breathe here on earth. It’s how I make space for myself. I’m like those insects that eat shit and secrete nectar.

Another reason is I need to pay for health care and my friends’ health care and other costs of being happy—so people should give me money, definitely.

— As told to Dawn Chan

View of “Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show,” Contemporary Jewish Museum, 2017.

There’s a ceramic piece by Cary Leibowitz from 1993 that reads: FUCKED UP HOMO BAR-MITZVAH GAY BOY WORRIES TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT HIS MOTHER WILL WEAR. “Museum Show,” which runs through June 25, 2017, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, is Leibowitz’s first-ever solo museum exhibition and midcareer survey, covering nearly thirty years of the artist’s identity-centric, bummer-rich comedy via paintings, drawings, sculptures, texts, and more. Here, Leibowitz talks about his work, organizing his show, and Fran Drescher.

I’M STILL SURPRISED THAT THIS EXHIBITION MADE IT INTO EXISTENCE. The curator of the show, Anastasia James, is about the same age as some of my work! Putting the show together was nerve-racking, but exciting. I was kind of happy with some of the older pieces. But there was another part of me that kept thinking, Oh my god, I barely changed in thirty years. Admittedly, I was embarrassed about looking at all my old work. I was also embarrassed at how badly I treated a lot of it. I had so much art shoved into the basement of my house from a million years ago. Then all of a sudden, when I needed to excavate and get it all out of there, it’s moldy and crapped-up. I was like, “Oh well, I guess this thing and that thing are going into the garbage.” Thankfully I didn’t need to get anything fixed or cleaned up—I make multiples and often have massive quantities of a single piece.

For the exhibition catalogue, I did an interview with Fran Drescher, the star of the 1990s CBS comedy The Nanny. I did this piece in 2007 called Tondo Schmondo, and it’s a circular painting surrounded by a halo of pink ski caps, and on each cap is a logo reading FRAN DRESCHER FAN CLUB—the “A” in the word “Fran” is a yellow Star of David. Anastasia was able to put me in touch with her because she has a friend of a friend who knows her. So we made a phone appointment, but Fran’s people kept rescheduling it, which, frankly, felt really glamorous. Finally we got around to having our conversation but I didn’t know what to do, what to say. Was she supposed to be asking me questions? I think she knew my work before we spoke—someone gave her one of the fan club caps years ago. But I did get to meet her before our phone date, around the time I made Tondo Schmondo. Doug and Mike Starn introduced me to her—she collected their work. But I could barely say anything to her because I was so shy.

Excerpt from Cary Leibowitz’s interview for 500 Words.

Am I an activist? HA HA. There were probably a lot of gay men in the early ’90s who weren’t fond of my work because it wasn’t overtly political. It certainly didn’t look “strong,” like something a guy who belonged to ACT UP would’ve made. And it didn’t participate in the larger dialogue about identity or gay rights in any direct way. I was such a weird loner—I was just creating pieces that felt right and honest to me. I have a couple of things that I would say are AIDS-related, one of which is a little teddy bear wearing a T-shirt that says, “Some day I’ll make a Cubist painting, but right now it’s not important.” My work looks really palatable and approachable, but I always throw in something to disturb people. I need that—I feel like it’s my responsibility to make the viewer uncomfortable. I made some new mugs about this horrible election, too. One says, “PARIS IS BURNING AND I’M STILL LEARNING / THE COUNTRY SAYS BOOO AND I LOOK TO YOU / WHERE DID YOU GO? / CAN I COME TOO / PRETTY PLEASE / Ye olde Candyass Fashion Victim Dictum copyright – on! 2016ish.”

Things are so terrifying now. The country’s being run by six-year-olds who’ve been taught the only way to “win” is to lie, cheat, and steal. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump need to be held to a higher standard for their behavior. Wouldn’t it be incredible if Bernie Sanders ran again in 2020, and won? A seventy-nine-year-old Jewish man saving the United States—how beautiful is that?

— As told to Alex Jovanovich