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diary of seeing 1

GREEN TO THE 31 LIMIT____ catherine christen hennix & the //sonic acts//

I went to see a performance at the Stedelijk, it was a part of the Sonic Acts programme and the result of research with the museum, dedicated to the lesser-known pioneers of sound art. It was also a part of the exhibition Cathernie Christen Hennix: Traversée du Fantasme, that opened at the same time. Catherine Christen Hennix is a composer, but also a mathematician, philosopher and a visual artist. In the 60s she ( although she was a he at that time) worked with the avant-garde composers such as La Mote Young, studied raga music with Pandit Pran Nath, and was a close collaborator with the American Anti-Art philosopher, composer and violinist Henry Flynt.

Her work in the gallery acts as a body of visual art that crosses boundaries between painting, sculpture and anti art, and Hennix herself coined a personal nomenclature for it - Epistemic art. “ She plays with the transmission of meaning, drawing on a wide range of references that touch on logic, intuitionistic mathematics, modal music and psychoanalysis.”

Basically, she is working with the transmission of meaning via the intuitionistic mathematics, modal music, psychoanalysis; and all that is not reproducible in words, but you can either have a meta understanding of it that comes and goes as a shiver, or Catherine can put it on a chalkboard for you in some algorithms to make it more “accessible”. There is a source of knowledge, inside of you that you are able to use as a way of understanding a concept, but it works only with certain atmospheres, when all the parameters are somehow - almost cosmically aligned. This knowledge is your own though, and you are able use it = reproduce it, as in - put it in a sculpture, make it into sheet music, a performance, a canvas, or a series of photographs, and you can use it to translate other peoples’ knowledge..

“Using an overtly obtuse and very formalized personal language, Hennix forces the viewer to stay in the state of “homosemioesis” - a subjective process of meaning - making that nullifies any possibility of a transfer of knowledge between the work of art and the viewer. “

Semiosis, according to the wikipedia - is any form of activity, conduct, or process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. “Semiosis is the performance element involving signs. Although a human can communicate many things unintentionally, individuals usually speak or write to elicit some kind of response. Yet there is little real explanation of how semiosis produces its effects, which is odd given that the word "sign" is in everyday use and most people would understand what it means. But semiotics has not offered clear technical definitions, nor is there agreement about how signs should be classified.”

So, Catherine went out in front of the audience after 40 years of hiatus. She looked very fragile while magnetically mysterious. She was sitting in her wheelchair, immovable, behind the music console, wearing a maroon robe with a hoodie, and I could only see her eyes and the curls of her grey hair slightly showing from under the hoodie.

The performance was set up in the Stedelijk auditorium room and it felt like a big warm womb, lit up in Green. It was obvious were were in for a sermon, sitting cross-legged, or lying on the bean bags all across the persian carpets that were part of the scenery Apart from Catherine and her technician, there were two bass players with their impressive instruments in the very front, and a trombone in the back.

The audio performance is called Blue(s) in Green to the 31 Limit. It draws on distinct computer generated broken chords derived from her previous work “Three Monochromatics” , originally developed as the sonic counterpart to one of Lucio Fontana’s monochrome light environments. That is why the womb was green.

Also it refers to Bill Evan’s ballad Blue in Green that Miles took over and made famous. The piece represents a fusion of Hennix’s mathematical interest with traditional practices of sustained niches in just intonation.

In the Q and A that followed the other day including a lecture about Catherine’s work, she acknowledged how Lacan’s philosophy as the end purpose had the intention of healing. I could say the same about her work.