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Aero-Mic’d @ Meridian Gallery (San Francisco)

Due to some impending travel, I could only stay for the first set at Friday night’s Meridian Gallery triple bill in San Francisco. Meridian co-founder Anne Brodzky opened the show by commenting on how the evening’s performances served as kind of a fourth partner in the current exhibit that Lawrence Rinder, Dean of the College at the California College of the Arts, had curated for the gallery’s three narrow floors: on the entry level, abstract illustrations by a half dozen area artists; on the second floor, anonymous tantric drawings from the collection of French poet Franck André Jamme; and on the third floor, an array of small, postcard-sized mirrors with koan-like text, by Jamme, written on them in white. Brodsky also mentioned that the night served as a kind of anniversary for the Meridian, which moved into its Union Square location this time last year (after two decades at 545 Sutter Street, it’s now at 535 Powell Street).

Rinder meta-curated the evening’s music, titled OF + OM + OR, having sub-contracted the duties to local artist Dean Smith, whose illustrations are part of the ground-floor exhibit. On the bill were Joshua Churchill playing processed guitar with a light show by Paul Clipson (whose show with Robert Rich I saw at SF Camerawork a month ago, but I haven’t had the opportunity to post here at Disquiet.com on it yet), a solo performance by Greg Kowalsky, and, for the opening set, the trio Aero-Mic’d.

Aero Mic’d is Wayne Smith on triggered samples and synthesis, along with Cliff Hengst on percussion and Scott Hewicker on electric guitar. Their half-hour piece, a kind of multi-part suite, opened and closed with edited audio from the game show Jeopardy — just the answers, like “Who is [this]?” and “What is [ that]?” spliced into a rapid-fire trivia spew. Those cathode-hearth incantations served to bookend a kind of modern-primitive tribal music, with Hewicker pushing cycles of fuzzed-out chords and Hengst pounding repetitive patterns, the simplicity of which belied the sensitivity and expertise he brought to their implementation. At times the trio’s playing suggested the art-brut rock of the band Savage Republic and the dervish-like trance-pop of the Feelies, though Aero-Mic’d contributed its own unique vision to this mode. In particular Hewicker’s guitar was carefully amplified so that for all its sublimated ferocity, his strumming against his strings was also fully audible.

This all occurred against a quiet backdrop, by Smith (Wayne, not Dean), of field recordings, some transformed into distant drones, others left to let bird song, car noise, and the like fill the gallery. At one point a skateboard could be heard coasting across the stereo spectrum.

I wish I could have lingered longer, in order to hear the other sounds that were to fill the gallery. Clipson’s 16mm projections at SF Camerawork a month back were a beautiful stream of images that drew from a broad range of photographic schools, and Kowalsky’s performance promised to use small tape recorders and radios that had been set along the floorboards for spatial diffusion (see photo below), much as Steve Roden had done to fine effect at last year’s Activating the Medium festival at San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

Related links: Meridian Gallery (meridiangallery.org), Aero-Mic'd (aeromicd.com), Scott Hewicker (scotthewicker.com).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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