Thursday, January 8, 2009

Interview: Lucky Dragons


Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara have been creating art and performing together under the name Lucky Dragons since the late 1990's and have produced some twenty recordings since 2000. Their work centers around mixed media collaborations. Having been to one of their shows in late 2007, I was entralled by the sights and sounds. It was unlike anything I've ever seen before, so I remembered this when writing my thesis in art history. In an attempt to understand visual art's role in the music world, I investigated their multi-media concert experience. Luke and Sarah were kind enough to indulge me with the following interview.

Bananaspam: How would you describe the aesthetic of your visual installations? How long have you been creating them?

Lucky Dragons: We work in many forms, but we often exhibit videos and musical instruments/interactive sculptures together. the videos I would describe as Californian, fast, colorful, and hypnotic--with some very basic special effects like greenscreen. The videos are non-narrative, cyclical, and often center around the performance of a specific human action like spitting, falling, or embracing or a use of landscape as a repeating pattern of interwoven images. The instruments are made from bits and pieces of homemade materials linked with electronics--cardboard, yarn, and braided aluminum. We've been working in this vein for 5-8 years, though sometimes we do shows/installations that are entirely drawing based. We organize a collaborative drawing group called sumi ink club, that is the drawing equivalent of lucky dragons.

Bananaspam: What is your process for creating visual art? What programs do you use?

LD: The programs we have used in the past are pretty standard commercial software: Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, MaxMSP/Jitter, Pro Tools... though we're trying to move towards using programs that are open source such as audacity (sound editing) and pure data (multimedia).

Bananaspam: What is the difference between a Lucky Dragons show with visuals and one show without visuals? In other words, what do they add to the performance? Do they change the performance? How essential is the visual aesthetic to the perception of your music?

LD: There is always something to look at as well as to listen to or touch during the performance.
Many of our instruments have a sculptural quality to them--and in preparation for the show I often lay everything out in a very specific and often bi-symmetric way. The coils of the touching wires are knitted into colorful stripes and spirals and we often incorporate a pile of stones from the area surrounding the site of the performance. These repeated visual motifs are either part of a ritual or a game depending how you look at it.

There is always a balance to the aural and visual information that we present--rather than the music or art component becoming dominant, ideally what arises is a unifiying social interaction, a connection formed between members of the audience, that becomes the most prominent aspect of the performance. The social component is the thing that remains in my mind long after the music is shut down and our bags are packed.

Bananaspam: In your opinion, why is there a disconnect between the study of music and art history?

LD: there is a separate discipline devoted to the study of music history, with its own specific methods and language... i think it is similar to the study of art history in some ways (as a technological history, perhaps, or as a cultural history). The main reason i can think of that music is left out of most art-historical discourse is that it is looked at as a craft, or a tradition, or a social economy, not an end into itself (a "fine" art...). perhaps there is a confluence of craft / tradition / economy / technology that is taking place in contemporary art, that widens the discussion a little bit to include music as a fine art... hopefully so!

Bananaspam: Why do you suppose concert visuals have never been analyzed historically?

LD: I suppose it is difficult to pin them down as something discrete, with their own identity outside of the performances... do you look at ballet or opera stuff? it seems like there are some roots in the collaborations that have taken place in those fields... with historical analysis to boot...

Bananaspam: What filmmakers or visual artists inspire you?

LD: Niki de St. Phalle, CoBrA group, Bruce Conner, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Paper Rad, Harrell Fletcher, YAYOI KUSAMA, cory archangel, frances stark, dexter sinister, chris marker, rose lowder, jack smith, peter kubelka, nick relph + oliver payne, amanda ross-ho, joan jonas, bruce nauman, allan kaprow, lygia clark, helio oticia, and on and on!

Bananaspam: Do you ever find visual accompaniment to be a distraction from a music performance?

LD: Definitely, this often occurs for me when violent images or images that create a gender divide are projected during a performance.
I remember playing at a festival in which I was the only female musician performing, and noticing that all the other bands had visuals that included bad things happening to women. Perhaps that's more than a distraction--but a reminder that the visual image creates a context for the music, and molds it's meaning, The music and visuals together create a public space that either creates an open community or has the power to alienate.

Bananaspam: What are your favorite marriages of live performance with visual accompaniment?

LD: Extreme Animals and Hecuba are two groups that always pair sound and image in a very astounding way. Extreme Animals incorporates animations into the live show and Hecuba works with costuming, dance, and gesture--almost like Kabuki theater.

Bananaspam: Could you accomplish visual accompaniments to your music without the use of computers or projection technology?

LD: If you can imagine anything you can make it happen. In many ways the computer approximates things that have an analog partner like reverb springs or certain film techniques. We use a computer to move swiftly and cheaply from one idea to the next.

** Lucky Dragons' other projects include a weekly collaborative drawing group called "Sumi Ink Club," and a small internet press community called "Glaciers of Nice."

1 comment:

AT said...

very interesting

thank you!