Portfolio for MMC Application
Directions: Click on the media description under the title of the work for the link to the documentation.
Click on above image for more photo documentation.
“amplify guitar. cover in plaster. wait for hardening. clean the instrument.” Plaster Body, is a composition which focuses and celebrates the queer, transitioning body. As white plaster is applied with blue gloves, the pink bodied electric guitar defiantly squeaks sound which is manipulated by my collaborator, Gabi Vanek, an experimental bassoonist, and director of the ox cart new music label. As with some of my other work, the intentional use of audio feedback is used for its poetic qualities, which are apt for expressing queer experience such as gender dysphoria and violence. This video was taken during my MFA show, “Taxonomy”, at the University of Iowa’s Eve Drewlowe gallery.
Collaborator Gabi Vanek and I are members of the new music quartet, Justin K. Comer and the Unblessed Rest of Us, who released a tape in Decemeber 2021. Click here for more info. The quartet features Gabi Vanek (Electronics), Will Yager (Bass), Justin K. Comer (Guitar, Radio, and Zoom G2.1u), and myself (Drums). Video recording of our live performance can be found here.
Cathedral/Canal combines research in sound art with my autobiographical experience of gender queationing and beginning medically transitionig from male to female. Framing the work with words by Mira Bellwether honors the generation of trans women before me while sharing technical information with the viewer. It is educational in its use of the words “cunt” and “fucking”, and it tells the viewer explicitly that my body is the body of a trans woman and the act is one of pleasure. The work compares audio feedback to gender dysphoria while also comparing interior spaces to exterior spaces. Feedback, the repetition of an audio input into its output and whose speed dictates its aural qualities, is an instrument that is being played by my body through the insertion of a contact microphone into my inguinal canals. The metaphor of the action represents the internal struggle of actively questioning my gender as a trans person, an experience in which the smallest decision (I will paint my nails, I will wear gender affirming clothing) provokes genuine anxiety and fear (What if I am murdered? Will I be able to find work?). Delay and reverb effects are used to reimagine my interior space as a grand architecture or wide canyon, signaling the natural sacredness of the body. Conceptually, the body is objectified as it is transformed into an experimental instrument, drawing further connections to the liberation of kink which as writer John Altmann elequently explains is the “...praxis of fantasy that seeks to ethically liberate the self and the Other by transforming their abstractions born of fantasy into community and discovery.”
There are often calls within the trans community for individuals to tell our own stories for the sake of those of us who feel alone and are struggling. This work was an early attempt at responding to such calls.
This video was selected for the 2021 Graduate Screenings: Film/Video, Animations, & New Genres, Cathedral/Canal, Services to Artists Committee 109th College Arts Association Annual Conference, which was guest jurored by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, the Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator for the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art.
The Test of Lime w/ Jake Jacobs
Between Fall 2018 and Summer 2021, I worked as production director at the University of Iowa’s radio station KRUI 89.7 FM, where I also hosted an experimental radio art show titled “The Test of Lime w/ Jake Jacobs.” The name of the show is a reference to avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage’s show on KAIR, a show featuring signature Brakhage storytelling and philosophical inquiry into the arts. By contrast, my show was often meant to be silly or unlistenable, a radical and political approach to transmission given the broadcasting landscape of the United States. Influenced heavily by free form radio station WFMU and the Banff Centre for the Arts show, “Radio ReThink”, I showed up Fridays 8-9PM to perform with my experimental instruments, play the same song over and over for an hour, or antagonize listeners into calling into the station to take back the electromagnetic space that is rightfully theirs.
During this time, I also used the radio station to platform events, artists, and social causes. In Iowa City, I led remote, live broadcasting efforts of the Stanley Museum of Art’s [r]amp music festival (2019), the statewide Limited Space art show (2020), and Public Space One’s Open Air Media Festival (2020, 2021). I presented my radio art research and practice at the 2020 College Arts Association Annual Conference in Chicago and at the 2021 Museum of Portable Sound’s Inaugural Sound Studies Conference in London. In summer 2020, I co-curated a radio art show titled “PSA: People Speaking Art” which featured a multidisciplinary group of emerging and established artists, most notably, recent Guggenheim fellow Tracie Morris. In June 2020, I did over 16 hours of live Solidarity Broadcasts, which focused on highlighting police abolitionist material in collaboration with local organizers, the Iowa Freedom Riders (IFR). As I played revolutionary speeches, poetry, and music, I would give out a google number that anyone could call or text to be put on the air with the goal of sharing people in the community’s experience with the institution of policing. This series lasted all month in conjunction with IFR organizing efforts.
The audio document is a “best of” that was featured on a tape for the solo show, “JHJNS_VAB_COMP”, in Fall 2019 at the University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building.
00:02:30-00:03:30, Excerpt of an episode where I played multiple audio books simultaneously.
00:46:40-00:47:20, Excerpt of a recurring segment where I would ask musicians to call into the station and play their music live over the phone, this call featured guitarist Shawn Stafford from Oklahoma City, OK.
03:26:40-03:27:20, Excerpt of an episode where I read Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons.”
Image description: The thumbnail image is from a live radio performance at the University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building. In this performance, I built my own FM transmitter and was broadcasting from both my low-powered FM transmitter and remotely through the University of Iowa’s radio station. This created a feedback and delay of my voice as the two outputs fed into each other’s inputs.
Work in Progress
Violence/Visibility is a work resulting from research into the history and physics of vocoder technology combined with transgender studies. In this work, which currently exists as a sound poem, I have used a digital vocoder to create a relationship between words. A common image of the vocoder is a modulator voice input captured by a microphone and the carrier synthesizer keyboard notes. In this work, however, both modulator and carrier inputs are specific words which explore contemporary trans identity. While you may be hearing the word, “Visibility”, it is only when the word “Violence” is spoken invisibly in the carrier channel. This relationship is repeated with the words “Door” and “Trap.”
While this recording is a proof of concept, this work is included in my portfolio as it most accurately represents my scholarly and creative practice at its most current stage. Besides applying to this program, I am also applying for internal and external funding to support designing a vocoder unit specific for a live performance that builds upon this research.