[thingist] Black Zero

Wolfgang Staehle w at thing.net
Wed Nov 18 21:44:06 UTC 2009

Performa09, White Box and THE THING present

Black Zero by Aldo Tambellini and Group Center (1965-1968)
featuring Aldo Tambellini (projections), William Parker (music), Ben
Morea (noise machine), Maggie Clapis and the voice of Calvin C. Hernton

A project by Christoph Draeger

November 22 , 6 p.m.
White Box, New York
329 Broome Street
between Bowery and Chrystie Streets

The critically acclaimed "Black Zero" (1965-68) by Aldo Tambellini was
one of the very first multimedia performances. It will be re-staged in
its original form by the artist who created it, Aldo Tambellini. We are
very pleased to announce that the music for the piece will be improvised
live by William Parker (double bass), whom the Allmusic Guide calls Free
Jazz's pre-eminent bass player today. 

Aldo Tambellini wrote this synopsis for "Black Zero" in 1965: "At
present, BLACK ZERO keeps on changing and growing with each
presentation, just like the BLACK balloon which appears in the
performance agonizingly grows, expands and disappears. In BLACK ZERO,
you’ll be inside of the black womb of the Space Era. And in that womb,
the Black poet, Calvin C. Hernton, the famous African American poet will
read his poems. The plastic gas-masked figure floats like an astronaut
under the expanding simultaneous motion of the stars. The television
monitors pulsate in their insane cosmic dance. One day the light and the
energy of the sun will become ice cold and the enormous sun disc will
become BLACK."

The last day of Performa’09 offers the unbelievably rare opportunity to
see Tambellini's legendary 1968 "Electromedia" happening, Black Zero,
for the first time in 41 years. The performance was painstakingly
reconstructed by the artist himself (who is 79 now) in collaboration
with Christoph Draeger. It will feature one more original member of
Group Center, painter/activist/anarchist Ben Morea, and a rare recording
of the voice of the legendary black poet Calvin C. Hernton, which had
only recently been unearthed. His original poems for Black Zero,
recorded by Tambellini in 1966, include the inflamatory “Jiggerbugging
in the Street”. To see Black Zero at White Box not only offers the rare
opportunity of a late glimpse into the tumultuous era of the
mid-sixties, but is a truly mind expanding experience. Black Zero was
created as an universal, abstract vision, intercellular and interstellar
at the same time, yet symbolically, it was also a highly political
account of racial tensions. It will be an exciting experiment to see how
the political aspect of the piece, firmly rooted in the revolutionary
culture of the decade when it was first created and performed, will
impact on a contemporary audience. Black Zero was a radical precursor to
Warhol's Plastic Inevitable and Rock music's psychedelic light shows.
Whereas Warhol used The Velvet Underground, Tambellini collaborated with
Free Jazz improvisers Cecil McBee, Alan Silva, Bill Dixon and Archie
Shepp and the UMBRA poets Ishmael Reed, Norman Pritcher and Calvin
Hernton. Tambellini’s philosophical views, recorded in the mid-sixties,
are strikingly contemporary: "The concept of instability, impermanency,
weightlessness, will become part of man or man part of it. Concepts will
become instantaneous, not everlasting but ever changing."

Press excerpts:
"Black Zero, a Space-Light-Sound Event, is a live production in which
the eye and the ear is charged with the shifting, changing, exploding
images of our time. Flashing Lumagrams, hand painted projections by Aldo
Tambellini, the rotations of Ron Hahne's Spiral Machine sliding across
moving screens, Ben Morea's clamorous machines, the strident sounds of
Alan Silva on bass, the hard reality of black poet, Calvin C. Hernton,
flashing light and gas-masked heads form a continuous experience in
Space, Light and Sound."-News from the Bridge, November 23, 1967
"The new avant-garde if cinema (light play) has moved 10 years forward
into explorations....their dreams are so much farther advanced than the
rest of the human activities that it will take at least another 10
years, maybe to catch up with the artist and to create proper tools to
enable him to put those dreams into reality." -Jonas Mekas, The Village
Voice, December 2, 1965

Aldo Tambellini (born Syracuse, 1930)
Tambellini is a painter, sculptor and media-arts pioneer who made his
first video in 1965, the classic "Black Is". The same year he began to
experiment with multi-media performance ("Black Zero"), incorporating
film, slides, music, poetry and dance-he called the new art form
"Electromedia" . In 1967 he opened the Black gate theatre in the Lower
East Side of New York, a forum for experimental film and video. In 1968,
he collaborated with his friend Otto Piene in what is regarded as the
first Television broadcast created by visual artists ever, "Black Gate
Cologne", for the german national TV station WDR. In 1969 he won the
Grand Prix at Oberhausen Film Festival for "Black TV" ("...an artist’s
sensory perception of the violence of the world we live in, projected
through the television tube."). He was a fellow at the center of
Advanced Visual Studies at MIT in Cambridge from 1975-1986. He lives and
works in Cambrigde MA.

William Parker (born New York City, 1952)
In the early '90s, free jazz was kept alive by a fairly large group of
Lower East Side musicians, many of whom gathered around the music's
pre-eminent bassist, William Parker. Parker was the scene's major
catalyst for musical activity.
As a bassist, Parker is possessed of a formidable technique, albeit an
unconventional one. Unlike a great many jazz bassists, Parker was not
formally trained as a classical player, though he did study with three
of the finest jazz players of the '60s. Consequently, Parker's style is
based on a tradition of self-expression and experimentation. His arco
work is possibly the most fascinating aspect of his idiom; Parker excels
at the creation of dense, hyperactive streaks of color, gleaned from the
inherent harmonic properties of the instrument. At bottom, he is a
textural player. Parker's pizzicato style is overwhelmingly percussive,
in intent and effect. 

Ben Morea (born 1941)
Morea is a painter and activist, and he is an original member of Group
Center. He was the founder of Black Mask in 1966 and started the radical
East Village collective Up Against The Wall Motherfucker in 1967. He
lives in Colorado.

Calvin C. Hernton (1933-2001)
Hernton, member of UMBRA was for many one of the greatest black poets in
the 1960's. His radical politically charged poetry strongly influenced
his friend Ishmael Reed (both men took part in Tambellini's first
“electromedia” performance, Black, in 1965), as well a later generation
of poets such as as Gil Scott Heron. 

Christoph Draeger (Born Zurich 1965)
Draeger is a conceptual artist whose work has been exhibited
internationally since 1993 in museums and venues such as Paco das Artes
in Sao Paulo, Kunstwerke in Berlin, Kwangju Biennial, Centre Pompidou in
Paris, Kunsthaus Zurich, Big Torino Biennial, Brooklyn Museum, Whitney
Museum in New York, Moscow Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, CCA in Warsaw
and Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico City, among others. Christoph Draeger
first moved to New York in 1996 on a one year-scholarship for the
International Studio Program at P.S 1. He lives and works in NYC.

This project has been made possible through generous support from Pro

White Box is located on 329 Broome Street between Bowery and Chrystie
Streets. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 7pm.
The nearest subway stops are Grand Street on the B/D lines and Delancey
Street on the F/J/M/Z lines. For more information please contact
press at whiteboxny.org or call 212-714-2347.


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