James Bickford, Daphne Board,
Stan Geddes and Rachel Lawrence
Bring Your Own Restaurant (BYOR)
Holyoke, Massachusetts, a.k.a. “Paper City”
Holyoke Massachusetts, Downtown Paper City, Date and Orgin of Photo Unknown
By Denis Luzuriaga
Photos: Peter Palombella
On October 27, 2010, Bickford’s, a quick-lunch restaurant chain launched for the Automat market in 1921, closed the last remaining Connecticut store and the last remaining Western Massachusetts store with no notice to the staff and management. The closings came just before the dinner hour and left 40 employees suddenly terminated.
“My favorite thing that I brought was one of those one burner turkey fryer things… in it I steamed 5 dozen ears of corn on the side of the road and served with various herb infused butters, sea salt and cracked pepper. My pesto has been called “crack noodles” (by someone who actually never had pesto before), spring rolls, sushi… and when it is close to Sun Ra’s birthday I celebrate Arrival Day with a pot of moon stew at the nearest BYOR event.” – James Bickford (no relation)
The tenth Bring Your Own Restaurant of 2010 at the Canal Walk, 1st level canal. 9/10/10
A brief history of Holyoke
Holyoke, Massachusetts had few inhabitants until the construction of its dam, the 1849 Holyoke Canal System and, at one point, over 25 water-powered paper mills. The American Pad & Paper Company was formed in Holyoke and is one of the largest suppliers of office products in the world. The street plan fosters high-rise buildings while the surrounding canals easily adapt to recreation and relaxation. Yet, through years of neglect, Holyoke has become among the poorest Massachusetts cities. Fifty percent of its school children live in poverty. According to a 2003 FBI Report its crime rate was significantly above the national average. Most of the year’s 2,822 crimes were property thefts. While on February 9, 1895, William G. Morgan invented the renowned sport termed “Volleyball” at the Holyoke YMCA. That YMCA building, as well as many of Holyoke’s ornate mill buildings and facades, has since disappeared due to urban decay, arson and rampant demolition.
More recently, in 2009, after visiting a few frontier art openings by the canals of post industrial Holyoke, four friends decided to take themselves out for a group meal. With establishments in the city officially extinct, James Bickford, Daphne Board, Stan Geddes and Rachel Lawrence resolved that the only way to find suitable public accommodations, in Downtown Holyoke, was to “bring their own restaurant.”
When an individual, a couple, a group of friends decide to dine together, the specifics very much depend on their coordinates, on the planetary nature of the site. Sharing a meal signifies a ceremony of sorts. Even in conditions of duress, urban decay, arson and rampant demolition, the communion of nourishment is a sacred one.
Bring Your Own Restaurant (BYOR) is described by it’s founding members as “A roaming plein-air potluck on the streets and canals of Holyoke.”
The first Bring Your Own Restaurant of 2010 during the Spring Open Studios
To quote Daphne Board, “BYOR is a bit of a ritual, and I love that as much as the element of surprise at each different place and with different people. Ritual with the element of surprise.”
Bring Your Own Restaurant, one asks. The answer – in Holyoke, Massachusetts – is “YES.” Why would city residents want to show up in a random, urban setting, carting all the trappings of a restaurant, tables, chairs, cloth napkins, real silverware and plates, flowers, candles, and excellent food? After all, by the plush safe agencies of 1960’s Madison Avenue, about the benefit of the Horn & Hardart Automat, it was famously said: “You can’t eat atmosphere.” Or can you? The dearth of “traditional” restaurants may be one reason, the unending quest for community another.
Daphne Board: BYOR is definitely a protest…I like James’ early description of BYOR as a protest against fear. It is a protest against the past abandonment of our downtown. Perhaps a playful or non-violent protest, art, a happening. Also a community gathering with almost no strings attached, It happens without the necessary logistics of house parties (no one is stuck doing *all* of the dishes!). In some ways it is very casual–we’ll be there, outside, in public, whether or not you are there. You can drop in for the whole event or just a while.
Rachel Lawrence: I guess the first event was sort of a performance piece and social statement, but I don’t know what it is anymore. Everyone who comes has a different idea on why and how they participate. It’s almost unbelievable that it goes so smoothly time after time. For me I guess it is art and spectacle as well as a way to get people out of isolation and routine and share a meal together the way so many other cultures do.
The eleventh BYOR of 2010, at the abandoned gas station near
Veterans Park, Dwight, and Chestnut. 9/24/10
James Bickford: To me it is an amalgam of epicurean experience, performance art, anarchism and community building. We have received a lot of attention lately and I have seen some criticisms, especially in regard to the NPR story. One person telling me: “wow… NPR makes a big deal out of this but all you created was the picnic” and “I love how you can do anything and people will call it art.” Well, yeah… you can do that. …and essentially we did not create anything new. It is a picnic, tailgate, pot luck, etc. but what does make it different, and what does make it a performance is what lies in the intent / purpose – we are intentionally moving the restaurant around every week and have been purposefully placing it in areas that people have come to consider “sketchy” or “dangerous”.
Denis Luzuriaga: Do you consider BYOR a social/food movement? Something more than Performance art/Happening? Something else entirely?
Daphne Board: BYOR is also a “bureaucracy-free zone”. Having just read some information on urban-place-making, the idea of a “BFZ” struck home. This was and is our intention: a simple formula, without much planning or permit-taking-outing. That sort of thing can be so tedious, and for what end goal? We just want to have a great time with unknown or known great people and great food.
James Bickford: We’ve also tried to make the setting, as much as possible, to include all the fineries of a nice restaurant – fine china, linens, and candles and occasionally costumes or we dress to impress (Stan and his pink tuxedo). If you are there as a participant in BYOR you are part of the performance. Part of our purpose is a response to the bad rap that Holyoke has earned over the years due to its failures in a declining economy, the loss of historic industry, rampant crime, numerous bad decisions on the part of city government and falling at the bottom of the list of near every possible statistic that is measured town by town and city by city in the state. One thing I think that I can speak for everyone involved is that we all want Holyoke to prosper and that we all are trying to create a positive image of community and good spirit in Holyoke with BYOR. …and there are many good things happening in Holyoke. I find it somewhat humorous that of all the things to report BYOR has gotten a lot more attention than I thought it would.
Rachel Lawrence: I think it would be great to have a website that describes the concept as we see it and hopefully it will inspire other communities to take the idea and make it their own. Of course things like this have been happening…sharing a meal is an ancient tradition…I think our emphasis on taking underutilized, abandoned and even “ugly” public spaces and giving them life is what makes BYOR different.
The tenth Bring Your Own Restaurant of 2010 at the Canal Walk, 1st level canal. 9/10/10
James Bickford: BYOR is also not all about Holyoke… I think that this kind of event could work in depressed economies with a similar story to Holyoke. With the attention that BYOR has received I hope to see it extend out and beyond. I mention “anarchism” in my initial response… I have always been a fan of the philosophical work of Hakim Bey, particularly his concepts of Immediatism and the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). The idea of absolute freedom in the moment and the ability for groups of people to create momentary spaces, usually gathering in public space and-or neglected / otherwise underutilized spaces while in doing so they elude the formal structures of society that normally create barriers… avoiding concepts like hierarchies, class, power, race, government. Everyone is welcome at BYOR, everyone is fed at BYOR and regardless of where we set up BYOR we still can see the streets and buildings around us but we are in our own little world for those few hours.
Daphne Board: I think as long as we explain what we are doing, the method should be easy enough to replicate wherever. It is not a difficult or particularly original concept, except in our downtown
Why eat in public when you could be in your own backyard? We’ve gotten that comment online mostly–people who see us and interact face-to-face have incredibly positive things to say. I can’t think of one negative experience actually at BYOR. But–the online world is like that. People feel free to slam each other in ways they would never think of when confronted in the “real” world.
I hope we can be in Holyoke for a long time, but one of our goals is to attract more restaurants to downtown. So it is a conundrum…what we are doing here right now is very special, but my hope is that we will become irrelevant. That our downtown will become vibrant at more hours of the day, not just during the 9-5 workday. Maybe we will have to move our events out to the mall, when it dies….
James Bickford: I always found TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone) to be a form of civil disobedience that should be practiced more often. It is a lot more inviting… rather than people seeing protests or anger they are witness to something they might actually want to participate in. People will walk an extra few blocks to check out what is happening… then they might join us. Lastly… it is great food. I am a foodie and a home-cooking kind of person, rarely eating out… BYOR is the best restaurant around. I do hope that things change in Holyoke and that we see small business and nice restaurant venues, theaters and galleries drawing people to our city – but this will be the death of BYOR. Maybe they can leave us just a few vacant lots?
The ninth Bring Your Own Restaurant of 2010 on the Lyman St bridge
over the 1st level canal. 8/27/10
Rachel Lawrence: I think I need to learn how to say, “Would you like a cupcake?” in Spanish. I always bring vegan cupcakes….and my favorite thing to eat is Daphne’s bread or homegrown fruits and vegetables.
Daphne Board: I love South Indian food and fresh bread. Sounds crazy, but I am hard-pressed to find a BYOR location I don’t fancy. We do often briefly scope them out beforehand to see if they have enough access for people to load tables in, etc. There are definitely locations that we have not BYORed yet that I have my eye on. There are some prime canal-views that we have not taken advantage of, and someone suggested we BYOR over the Connecticut River on the Holyoke-South Hadley line, That would be amazing–and hopefully we can do that in the Spring when the river is full force over the dam. This year we went to a couple of underused parks and those were great (kids ran around, ricocheted off of the grass, etc). The modern under-usage of public parks in Holyoke is a phenomenon that I hope dies quickly–I have some old photos of the Victorian era when the parks were just filled with people of all walks of life. That said, the urban close-to-the-street locations are great because then we encounter people passing by (in cars or on foot). That’s when we have some really great interactions–BYOR makes people smile and engage.
Rachel Lawrence: Gas station!
James Bickford: Pulaski Park, on the canal at Dwight and Race St (location of the many buildings now occupied by art studios), HGE’s (the utility company) Energy Park, Lyman St Bridge when it was closed to traffic, on the new Canal Walk and when it has rained we’ve held BYOR at the loading dock at Open Square and under the canopy of an abandoned gas station. I love the canal as a feature, but the gas station comes out on top as my favorite spot. It still has some lights on so we’ve stayed pretty late there and I’ve seen some great photography from those two events.
The second Bring Your Own Restaurant of 2010 at Water Power Park off North Canal Street
We are all in it together… we are trying to do something positive while apathy, racism and government cronyism has eroded the city for years.
Denis Luzuriaga: How do you envision BYOR in five to 10 years? How about the canal district of Holyoke; the art scene, and commerce in general?
Daphne Board: What do I think of commerce in general? I loathe commerce in general. A NYTimes headline declared that in order to save the world economy, we have to make the population of China “consumers.” How horrifying.
Rachel Lawrence: I have no vision for BYOR except for the fact that I hope it continues.
James Bickford: I think that in ten years to come we will have weathered the storm and we will find Holyoke to be a community that has succeeded. This will mean taking some risks. It will also have to be done without gentrification and/or the displacing of some of the people that have already taken the risk – like the existing art community.
The eleventh BYOR of 2010, at the abandoned gas station near
Veterans Park, Dwight, and Chestnut. 9/24/10
James Bickford: “Rather than a long and involved story about my degrees, awards, shifting career paths, military service, time in prison, feats of strength or works in permanent museum collections, I will instead use these words to describe myself: Anarchist, Activist, Culture Jammer, Anti-Artist, Agent of Chaos, Noise Maker, Mask Maker, Explorer, Biologist, Technologist, Foodie, Analog Luddite, Father, Friend, Neighbor, Thinker, Guinea Pig Herder, Psychonaut, Strategist”
Daphne Board is a shoemaker and loves living in Holyoke
Stan Geddes is one of the Founders of Bring Your Own Restaurant in Holyoke, MA where he lives and works
Rachel Lawrence: mother, artist, student, unemployed terrorist, head crumb maker at We Are All Beasts Super Secret Renegade Underground Second Floor Vegan Bakery and Guinea Pig Sanctuary and the primary alchemist at The Vegan Owl a late night bistro, political salon and cookzine publisher
Denis Luzuriaga: visual artist working in Western Massachusetts. He combines video, painting, and sound in what can be termed “sense-scapes.” His latest work “Temporis” is a two channel video and sculptural installation. Temporis is installed in a 150 year old mill building along the Connecticut River. Denis exhibits his work in galleries, exhibition spaces, and works with outsider artists performing irreverent versions of yester-year avant-garde such as Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonata” electrified.
Peter Palombella: sometimes better known by his online handle VanDog, is a photographer and blogger in Holyoke covering local events from Politics to Arts and Culture
Bring Your Own Restaurant (BYOR): Do it yourself fine dining on the streets of Holyoke. A plein air potluck held every other Friday, 7pm start, rain or shine and from Spring until late Fall. All are welcome. If you would like to join us, bring a dish of something edible to share, your own plate, chair, utensils, etc. and we will enjoy the lovely view in downtown Holyoke with good company. Bringing your own table is recommended, but if you are solo there is always space at someone else’s table. We will have a couple of chairs on hand for those without access to cars. We would like this to be a trash-free event, so please do not bring disposable plates or other items that will end up in the landfill! Dress to impress or dress to de-stress. No reservations
Holyoke is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States, on the banks of the Connecticut River. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city was named after Elizur Holyoke, who explored the area in 1660. One of the first planned industrial communities, Holyoke bears the nickname “Paper City”
Horn and Hardart initiated their first Automat restaurant in the USA in Philadelphia on June 12, 1902, borrowing the concept of automatic food service from a successful German establishment, Berlin’s Quisiana Automat. The first New York Automat opened in Times Square July 2, 1912. Later that week, another opened at Broadway and East 14th Street, near Union Square
Bickford’s: Samuel Longley Bickford (1885–1959) began his restaurant career in 1902, and in 1921, he established his quick-lunch Bickford’s restaurant chain. In 1921, the Bickford’s “lunchrooms,” as they were known, offered modestly priced fare and extended hours. Bickford’s architect was F. Russell Stuckert, who had been associated with Samuel Bickford since 1917. Stuckert’s father, J. Franklin Stuckert, had designed buildings for Horn & Hardart in the 1890s. Jack Kerouac sometimes wrote while sitting in Bickford’s, and he mentioned the restaurant in Lonesome Traveler. Other famed members of the Beat Generation could be found at night in the New York Bickford’s as noted by The New York Times: The best minds of Allen Ginsberg’s generation “sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s,” he wrote in Howl. The Beat Generation muse, Herbert Huncke, practically inhabited the Bickford’s on West 42nd Street. Walker Evans photographed Bickford’s customers, and Andy Warhol rhapsodized about Bickford’s waitresses. Bickford’s made its way into the work of writers as diverse as Woody Allen and William Styron. Andy Warhol’s assistant, Gerard Malanga, was out getting a coffee-to-go at Bickford’s when Warhol was shot. The Mad cartoonist Wally Wood was 21 years old when he worked as a Bickford’s busboy shortly after his 1948 arrival in Manhattan
Rhys Chatham & Angie Eng
At The Kitchen, NYC
Guitar Trio At Flywheel, Easthampton MA
Angie Eng and Rhys Chatham: Echodes is an audio visual performance with noise guitar
by minimal composer Rhys Chatham and experimental video artist, Angie Eng
October 15 and 16, 2010 at The Kitchen, New York City
By Jessica Higgins
From her time in the early 1990’s as an organizer and driving creative voice behind The Poool, known for performances in New York City’s Knitting Factory, Roulette, Clocktower Gallery, Postmasters Gallery, Artists Space, internationally in Tokyo and culminating in performances at diverse venues such as CBGB’s, The Kitchen, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rutgers University, Angie Eng’s multi-media works have contained a curiosity of symbols, processes and intermixed layers flowing between conceptual and aesthetic combinations that have finally caught my full attention.
Left: CBGB’s, a club at 315 Bowery, NYC became a forum for The Ramones, Misfits,
Television, the Patti Smith Group, Mink DeVille, The Dead Boys, The Dictators,
The Fleshtones, The Voidoids, The Cramps, Blondie, The Shirts, and Talking Heads
Right: The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC)
is a multi-venue arts center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York
After seeing her recent performance with Rhys Chatham at The Kitchen, I’ve been convinced of her original seriousness regarding her position as a feminist media artist in a manly media world leaning towards artists like Matthew Barney, Gary Hill, Bill Viola or Nam Jun Paik. Since the outset Angie has seen herself as a beneficiary of feminist media pioneers such as Joan Jonas, Steina Vasulka, Laurie Anderson, Charlotte Moorman and others, …take Mary Lucier. Also, though we only worked together more recently, Angie has been a personal friend who I met through strong links well over a decade ago.
Angie Eng peforming Echodes with Rhys Chatham
at The Kitchen, October 15, 2010, New York City
In 2007, I had the pleasure of working with Angie on her project at EyeBeam in Chelsea, a few blocks from The Kitchen. Eyebeam is an organization focusing on supporting research & development, production, education and public programs for artists, hackers, designers, engineers, graffiti artists, creative technologists and the general public. Because Angie also has a deep background in pedagogy, art therapy and social work, Eyebeam saw fit to Grant her a teaching program. Her project extended intervening public and private spaces to young people disinterested in school, giving them a chance to structure works for the streets. It also introduced the youth to pre-existing models of event based art, such as those by Fluxus Artists of the early 60’s and 70’s, as this is a specialty, this was mainly where I came in.
Rhys Chatham (trumpet) performs Echodes at The Kitchen, Oct. 15, 2010, New York City
In 2008, having survived Tompkins Square Riots, 9/11, the local plutocracy, mono-industry, mass migration to Williamsburg and other recent NYC annoyances, Angie bailed and became an ex-pat with a move to Paris, a city, which by comparison is devoted to the legacy of its communities, selling her furniture on the street and preparing herself with French classes. I was sorry to see this wonderful artist leave, but realized many artists were migrating during this time. I hoped I’d see more of Angie’s work down the line, or maybe in Europe one day, but for now it was our loss.
UAPD Street Eat, by Angie Eng collaborating with NYC artist, Jessica Higgins and students
Vietnamese artist, Rich Streitmatter-Tran led RMIT University students in Ho Chi Minh City
The groups conducted actions on themes related to private behavior in public space and
the filters prompted by mobile technologies and their impact on privacy in public urban sites
So it was to my pleasant surprise when I heard from Angie that she would return from Paris to New York’s’ premier performance space, The Kitchen, performing a major media work with none other than a founding curator of The Kitchen and an archetype of Downtown New York, Rhys Chatham. By leaving the city, miraculously Angie was now collaborating at its core.
Photo: Vintage Rhys Chatam, Video: Guitar Trio Performed with Thurston Moore,
Lee Renaldo, David Daniell, Kim Gordon, Colin Langenus, Alan Licht, Robert Longo,
Byron Westbrook, Adam Wills, Electric Guitars – Ernst Brooks III, Electric Bass
Jonathan Kane, Drums, Recorded live Jan-27, 2007. Taken from “Guitar Trio Is My Life!”
Briefly, Rhys Chatham began his musical career as a piano tuner for La Monte Young and harpsichord tuner for Glenn Gould. He studied with Morton Subotnick and was a member of Young’s group, The Theater of Eternal Music, during the early 70’s. He also played with Tony Conrad in The Dream Syndicate. In 1971 Rhys became the first music director at The Kitchen. He produced concerts of Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Arto Lindsay and John Lurie, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth later played in his ensemble. He also worked closely with Robert Longo and Joseph Nechvatal.
Angie Eng peforming Echodes with Rhys Chatham
at The Kitchen, October 15, 2010, New York City
Rhys Chatham’s serious music brought in influences by The Ramones in a wider sensibility known as No Wave. The sensibility emerged in 1978 along with one of his most famous works, Guitar Trio, performed around downtown Manhattan with an ensemble that included Glenn Branca and Nina Canal. Band of Susans began their careers in his ensembles and later performed a cover of “Guitar Trio.” In 1983 he began performing with the trumpet and his more recent works explore improvisatory amplified and circuit bending trumpet solos to which we were amply treated at The Kitchen.
Rhys Chatham (trumpet) rehearsing Echodes at The Kitchen, October 15, 2010, New York City
The oddest coincidence took place a week before Angie’s appearance. I was out and about on a Saturday night in Easthampton Massachusetts with Erika Knerr who runs New Observations Magazine. We went over to Flywheel, “the” collective experimental performance venue of Western Mass. At Flywheel, Erika ran into an ex-neighbor from Greenpoint Brooklyn, none other than Thomas Lail of soundBarn & Albany Sonic Arts Collective, who had moved to Troy N.Y., home of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and EMPAC. Tom said he had moved up there to teach experimental music and that he was in Easthampton to perform, of all works, Guitar Trio by Rhys Chatham. The ensemble was going on in about 20 minutes.
Left: The Kitchen Today (1985-Present) The Kitchen moved uptown to 512 West 19th Street
to begin the spring 1986 season and subsequetly purchased the space in 1987
Right: Flywheel, a collectively run, not-for-profit space, aims to build community and give
artists of all types the opportunity to craft, practice, and perform their work
located at historic Old Town Hall, Easthampton MA
I decided to stay to hear them and it turned out that Tom was also attending Rhys Chatham and Angie Eng at The Kitchen in NYC the next weekend. It was a very rich evening at Flywheel, not only was Guitar Trio a great performance of a vintage No Wave work by The G3 Ensemble with Thomas Lail, Tara Fracalossi, Patrick Weklar, Matt Ernst, Holland Hopson, Ray Hare, guitars; Eric Hardiman, bass and Matt Weston, drums, but it was complete with the original projections for music by Robert Longo. Opening for this, we were treated to a rare performance by Christoph Heemann of his impressive ear-movie-esque performance in drones, musique concrete and surrealist sound. I wondered what Angie would be bringing to The Kitchen, next week, with her own work in projected media for sound, music and a performance by Rhys Chatham himself.
Albany Sonic Arts Collective (ASAC) + SoundBarn 10.9.10 FLYWHEEL EASTHAMPTON, MA
performing Guitar Trio, by Rhys Chatham, Musical Direction by Thomas Lail
Guitar Trio is a challenging piece using high amplitude to push the envelope of what one can endure sonically, of where hearing becomes tactile and of how we can literally be pierced by sound waves. It seemed very appropriate at Flywheel, as a venue in Massachusetts, because it has the energy of some of the most important raw early venues such as those I associated with Angie’s early years in The Poool and probably the early years for Rhys Chatham as well. Now at The Kitchen, which itself has gone from being a raw venue (it was literally the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center when it started) to the polished upscale venue it is today, I am wondering about the evolution of No Wave and Downtown culture surviving and growing in Chelsea.
Angie Eng peforming Echodes with Rhys Chatham
at The Kitchen, October 15, 2010, New York City
Finally, later that week at The Kitchen in New York City, I attended the evening of music by Rhys Chatham with performed visuals by Angie Eng. Personally, I found that Angie’s work had gone far beyond anything I had seen her do before and certainly beyond her work with The Poool. I could also see more immersive and purposeful use of symbols and concept in the work, which achieved a stunning quality while remaining thought provoking, going all the way and beyond as picture for today’s music by Rhys Chatham. Would it have worked for Guitar Trio, probably Angie would have done something else and I would love to see that, but Robert Longo’s imagery is still very riveting and fits Guitar Trio like a tailored business suit. However, the new approach that Rhys Chatham is taking, involving more artists, syndicating his works and going beyond his own hit recipes, made for an evening with plenty of edge to it. For me it was a rare and surprising week filled with the music of an artist who has quietly been organizing conditions of art making for many years and making a permanent impression doing so. At the end of the concert I was quite stunned and found it difficult to prepare myself to go.
An early version of Echodes: Rhys Chatham and Angie Eng, Paris 2009
The Kitchen today has modernized and has a polished appeal associated with the times. It still offers a valuable slice of our postmodern culture. I remember the old Kitchen when it was in SoHo. In those days I was a youngster, lucky to be stomping around the place. The Fluxus concerts held there resembled a chaotic whirl, but I still see the black bowler hats of Olivetti and a floor covered in foam pillows up front for a crowded space.
Rhys Chatham began his musical career as a piano tuner for avant-garde pioneer La Monte Young as well as harpsichord tuner for Gustav Leonhard, Rosalyn Turek and Glenn Gould. He soon studied under electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick and minimalist icon La Monte Young and was a member of Young’s group, The Theater of Eternal Music, during the early seventies; Chatham also played with Tony Conrad in an early version of Conrad’s group, The Dream Syndicate. In 1971, while still in his teens, Chatham became the first music director at the experimental art space The Kitchen in lower Manhattan. His early works, such as Two Gongs (1971) owed a significant debt to Young and other minimalists. His concert productions included experimenters Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, and early alternative rockers such as Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Arto Lindsay, and John Lurie. He has worked closely with visual artist/musician Robert Longo, particularly in the 1980s, and on an experimental opera called XS: The Opera Opus (1984-6) with the visual artist Joseph Nechvatal. Compositions from the late 1970s and early 1980s By 1977, Chatham’s music was heavily influenced by punk rock, having seen an early Ramones concert. He was particularly intrigued by and influential upon the group of artists music critics would label No Wave in 1978. That year, he began performing Guitar Trio around downtown Manhattan with an ensemble that included Glenn Branca, as well as Nina Canal of Ut. During this period, he wrote several works for large guitar ensembles, including Drastic Classicism, a collaboration with dancer Karole Armitage. Drastic Classicism was first released in 1982 on the compilation New Music from Antarctica, put together by Kit Fitzgerald, John Sanborn and Peter Laurence Gordon. It was also included on the 1987 album that also included his 1982 composition Die Donnergötter (German for “The Thundergods”). Members of the New York City noise rock band Band of Susans began their careers in Chatham’s ensembles; they later performed a cover of Chatham’s “Guitar Trio” on their 1991 album, The Word And The Flesh. (This parallels the way that members of fellow NYC noise rockers Sonic Youth began their careers in Branca’s ensembles; Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth did play with Chatham as well.) Chatham began playing trumpet in 1983, and his more recent works explore improvisatory trumpet solos; these are performed by Chatham himself, employing much of the same amplification and effects that he acquired with the guitar, over synthesized dance rhythms by the composer Martin Wheeler. His 1990s recordings in this style saw release on Ninja Tune Records as the compilation Neon.
Angie Eng is a media artist who works in video, installation and time-based performance. Eng was born in 1969 in San Francisco California. She was trained as a painter (UC Santa Barbara) in the post-classical tradition. She moved to New York City in 1993 and felt disconnected with the painting medium and soon discovered time based arts. During this time she became involved in the downtown electronic arts scene where she experimented with video sculptures, installation and with live video. (SoundLab, Fakeshop, Unity Gain,Pseudo Projects, PS 1 Clocktower Gallery) She collaborated on numerous video performance projects, including The Poool a live video performance group she co-founded and co-directed with Nancy Meli Walker and Benton Bainbridge in 1996-1999. She currently has a few video/music performance collaborations with Rhys Chatham (Echodes), Pascal Battus (Tremorrag) and a new women’s guitar video band (in the works!) Her work has been performed and exhibited at established venues such as, Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, Lincoln Center Video Festival, The Kitchen, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, Roulette Intermedium , Bronx Museum, Artists Space, Art in General and Experimental Intermedia. Her videos have been included in digital art festivals in local and international venues in Cuba, France, Greece, Japan, Holland, Germany, Former Yugoslavia and Canada. She has received grants and commissions: New Radio and Performing Arts, Harvestworks, Art In General, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York State Council on the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Alternative Museum, and Experimental TV Center Finishing Funds. She has worked with composers, dancers, theatre, sound and video artists including: Ron Anderson, Rhys Chatham, Vincent Epplay, Yuko Fujiyama, Jon Giles, Andy Grayton, Jason Kao Hwang, Simon Hostettler, Jessica Higgins, Hoppy Kamiyama, Gabriel Latessa, Zach Layton, Okkyung Lee, Jarryd Lowder, Matthew Ostrowski, Jean Jacques Palix, Zeena Parkins, Ludovic Poulet, Liminal Projects, Kyoko Kitamura, David Linton, Thierry Madiot, Geoff Matters, Ikue Mori, Pauline Oliveros, Jane Scarpantoni, Peter Scherer, Jim Staley, Satoshi Takeshi, Yumiko Tanaka,Keiko Uenishi, Elisabeth Valletti, Vire Volte Theatre, Nancy Meli Walker and David Weinstein. She is also a European correspondent for AOA (Artist Organized Art) to support a critical dialogue between artists, art practice and dissemination via public events. She lives and works in New York and Paris.
Thomas Lail, Associate Professor of Art at Hudson Valley Community College is a visual artist and musician. He has exhibited drawings, collages and installations at: ArtCologne, Germany; Galeria Jan Koniarka, Trnava, Slovakia; now&then, London, U.K.; Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn and numerous locations in the Capital District. He has been an artist in residence at NO.W.HERE studios in London, UK and has performed music with Lukomski/Majer/Lail and solo in New York City and the Capital District.
The Poool: Striving to form an all female video performance group, Nancy Meli Walker approached Angie Eng in the summer of 1995. Days later, a phone call from Benton Bainbridge who Meli Walker collaborated with in 77 Hz (a live video ensemble) prompted them to eliminate the sex criteria and start The Poool. Their first gig was the day after Benton escaped San Francisco and they “jammed” at Sound Lab, Chinatown. During the time The Poool was formerly known as The Pool with 2 o’s they performed at The Knitting Factory, Roulette, The Clocktower Gallery, Postmasters Gallery and Artists Space. As The Poool with 3 o’s, they went international to Tokyo, Japan as well as performing at local venues: The Kitchen, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rutgers University.
soundBarn is the experimental music duet of Thomas Lail and Patrick Weklar.
The soundBarn is a project of artist/musician Thomas Lail and artist/gallerist Tara Fracalossi and is located on what was once Heald Orchards in Valatie, New York.
Albany Sonic Arts Collective is a grassroots organization located in and around Albany, NY dedicated to building a thriving community of listeners and performers of music that exists outside of traditional boundaries with a special emphasis on forms that stress freedom and exploration of new ideas.
The Kitchen: Looking for a way to present their work to a public audience, Steina and Woody Vasulka rented the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center (1971-1973,) in the former Broadway Central Hotel. The Vasulka’s, with help from Andy Mannik, opened The Kitchen as a presentation space for video artists on June 15, 1971. Later that year, the Vasulka’s added music to their programming and named Rhys Chatham the first music director. The Kitchen continued their eclectic programming at the Mercer Arts Center until the summer of 1973 when they began planning to move to 59 Wooster Street. In August 1973 the building that housed the Mercer Arts Center collapsed, making this decision final. The Kitchen moves to SoHo (1973-1986) The 1973-1974 season started in The Kitchen’s new location at the corner of Wooster and Broome streets in the former LoGiudice Gallery Building. During its time on 59 Wooster Street The Kitchen emerged as New York’s premiere avant-garde and experimental arts center. In addition to a performance space, a gallery and video viewing room were established at this location. The Kitchen Today (1985-Present) The Kitchen moved uptown to 512 West 19th Street to begin the spring 1986 season and subsequetly purchased the space in 1987.
Flywheel, a collectively run, not-for-profit space, aims to build community and give artists of all types the opportunity to craft, practice, and perform their work in an environment where creativity is valued over profit. Volunteer-run and governed by consensus, Flywheel believes that art and information should be equally accessible and affordable to all people. In the spring of 1998, Cindy Bow and Helen Harrison founded Valley Arts and Music Alliance (VAMA), a grassroots collective in which artists would help each other produce free, all- ages shows that reflected the their own creative visions rather than the values of the music industry establishment. VAMA attracted like-minded people, most of whom were already doing similar things in their own homes, church and dorm basements, record stores, VFW halls, and any other place they could find. Together the group produced over two-dozen shows through December of 1998, when a friend and supporter found a permanent space in Easthampton – a long-vacant cabinet store owned by a local doctor. As word of the space spread, more people joined, and Flywheel was born. Our doors opened in March of 1999. Since then, the unique expressions of countless artists continue to transform the space from day to day. In 2007, we decided to leave our home of 8 years at 2 Holyoke St. and relocate to Easthampton’s historic Old Town Hall. Over the years, some old friends have moved on while new ones have joined us, but the vision remains the same.
EMPAC: The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is a multi-venue arts center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, which opened on October 3, 2008. The director of EMPAC is Johannes Goebel. He was previously the director of the Institute for Music and Acoustics, which he founded at the Center for Art and Media Technology (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. EMPAC’s curators are Helene Lesterlin (Dance), Kathleen Forde (Visual Arts), and Micah Silver (Music and Sound Art). The building is named after Curtis Priem, co-founder of NVIDIA and graduate of the RPI Class of 1982, who donated $40 million to the Institute in 2004.
Jessica Higgins is an American artist, who lives and works in New York and Massachusetts. Formative dance studies at Juilliard and Joffrey. Daughter of Fluxus Founders Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles. She has direct experiential knowledge of Fluxus, having early formation in that culture by way of the original members and by participation in historic Fluxus events. B.A. from Suny, New York. Attended Art Students League and Parsons School of Design. “My work is primarily conceptual intermedia using action, dance, installation and visuals.”