The noontime chats held at PICA during TBA are a fun, free way to hear what artists are thinking about the work they're showing at the festival. First up today, Khaela Maricich and Melissa Dyne of the Blow, whose performance this weekend, We Put It Together So We Could Take It Apart, is one of the more cryptically described in the TBA guide. ("Using live sampling, the Blow reconfigure their songs into something new, creating a platform for improvisation that honors the heartbeat of the music and challenges our expectations of live performance." Hmmm.)
Hearing them talk about the work for an hour helped! A bit. It also made me think that Khaela Maricich is an excellent ambassador for art that is experimental or tricky or weird, because she's incredibly bright and says things that are surprising and strange yet odddly sensible.
Here's what I learned about We Put It Together:
• It's a music performance. It's a performance based on the new Blow album, which Dyne and Maricich recently recorded. In recording their album, they created electronic samples that fit together "like little legos," so that when performing live, they'll be able to "disassemble the and reassemble them." In other words... they put it together so they could take it apart. ("Please, make it more complex sounding than that just did," Maricich pled of Dyne.)
• The album itself was recorded in off-season suburban vacation condos they rented for cheap, where Dyne was able to construct on-the-fly recording setups. "We made the album in your mom's house," Maricich joked.
• During the performance, Khaela will be onstage alone, under stage lighting that has gotten a serious fucking-with from the tech-minded Dyne. Dyne sits at the back of the room, running lights and sound. The show is both improvised and structured. "I think of monkeys grabbing limbs on trees," says Dyne; there's flexibility, but "there are things that are there that we can work around.” A key concern, says Maricich, is how to stay open and flexible but not make a show that’s "just a weird jerkoff improv session." Later, she returned to that idea: “We're trying to get to a place where it’s not premeditated, but that’s also logical and makes sense.”
• During one recent show, Maririch took her pants off. This prompted a riff from the audience and moderator about Porky Piggin' it, Donald Duckin' it. I am only including this bullet point so I have an excuse to title my post "Porky Piggin' It."
• The dynamics of their performance change based on whether they're in a fine art context or a music venue, but more interestingly to Maricich and Dyne is "how the perception of what we are and what we’re doing changes, and what identity people are willing to let you inhabit.”
"The majority of people who come to a music show don’t think of it as a performance, that you're performing a character," says Maricich; audiences don't realize that it's not "raw, pure, self being put on stage... It’s interesting for me to get onstage and think about what it means to be performing yourself.”
Here's what I learned about the Blow:
• Maricich and Dyne, who "live together, in the gay way," as Maricich wrote in this absolutely excellent essay in the Stranger, met during TBA in 2004, when Maricich asked Dyle to help model for a project: “I needed someone to be a poster model for mental imbalance.” (Dyne: "It was like the best come on ever, right?”)
• As the Blow, they're interested in creating work that is broadly appealing—they like that there's a "wider audience of people who feel entitled and welcome" to come to a show in a music venue. One difference Maricich has noticed between different types of audiences: Art audiences approach a show wondering "what are you going to give me?" With music audiences, it's "I came because you're going to give me this thing that I love."
• Working within a popular medium like music is complicated. "We want to deconstruct pop music, but we’re not being cynical about that," says Maricich. "We’re deconstructing something that we love… and vivisecting something that is alive and that you love" is more difficult than creating some sort of abstract, high-concept art project.
• As Maricich sums it up, “We're crowd pleasing and also trippers, so who knows how that will work out.”
You know, I'm not sure this recap really cleared anything up. But I tellya, after hearing these two talk about their thoughts about music and art for an hour, I can't wait to see what their show looks like.
We Put It Together So We Could Take It Apart, Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Sun Sept 15-Mon Sept 16, 8:30 pm, $20