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Kellie Morgan Lutzko, Community Outreach & Marketing Manager
Jul 06, 2020
It started off pretty simple, and in much more simple times. We wanted to have three bands play in the galleries during the exhibition run of what was scheduled to be our Winter exhibition, Sadie Benning: Pain Thing. Given Sadie’s musical past (as the drummer of seminal post-Riot Grrrl band Le Tigre), and given the spartan curatorial dynamic of the show, we felt that it would be critical to concretize the connection between the music community with this particular show and body of work.
We brainstormed who would make sense in terms of feasibility, availability, as well as which current bands would make the most sense from a sonic and aesthetic perspective. My pie-in-the-sky band for this project was Empath from the first meeting. Empath sounds and feels like Sadie’s exhibition looks and feels.
Empath was to be the third of three performances that were to happen in the Sadie Benning gallery. Didi was the first band to perform on February 8. They set us off to a fantastic start with a healthy attendance, no tech issues, and all-around good vibes. La Neve was the second, set to perform March 12. If you’ll recall; that was at the very moment when all hell was about to pop off regarding COVID-19. Not to mention with the primaries. The performance ended up being a virtual one, since the galleries were closed, and La Neve was not going to be able to travel from out of state to perform. We thought at the time that it might be possible that Empath could potentially still happen in the galleries, if people were vigilant and followed the social distancing protocols. WRONG!
As we approached Empath’s April 23 performance date, it became obvious that we wouldn’t be back onsite anytime soon. So Michael and I began a series of informal Zoom chats with the band to see what might be possible instead of an in-gallery performance. One of the first ideas that Catherine had was an extended cut of an experimental track from the band’s 2018 EP, Liberating Guilt and Fear. Immediately, I exploded “ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT III?” Indeed they were. We were all super pumped about that idea. Along the way, I saw that the band announced that they were going to be involved in a Fat Possum Records virtual showcase through the Brooklyn-based venue Baby’s All Right on April 25th. The venue organized a streaming platform during the pandemic called Baby TV where people could pay a five-dollar cover to stream sets. I tuned in for the set, loved it (a lot) and suggested repurposing the lo-fi experimental video as the performance side of our event. This felt like an economical use of both time and resources for all. The purpose of the interview was to contextualize the entire project in an organic way, and the playlist linked below was a little extra thing to give some perspective into the whole project as well.
The components of Empath x Wex: A Triptych all came into focus and were completed right before the May 25 murder of George Floyd, and it frankly feels weird and not right to show something that makes no reference to systemic racism, Black Lives Matter, abolition, or police brutality. But here we are, July 2020, presenting a time capsule from what in retrospect might be considered the early part of the pandemic. I'll be the first to acknowledge the privilege of not discussing racial issues that are now a central part of all dialogue in any acceptable art or music—or just human—circles. And also acknowledging that this project presents itself publicly on the eve of the rightful criticism of museums and art institutions as antiquated upholders of white supremacy. #Changethemuseum may soon be a micromovement in and of itself, as yet another symptom of systemic racism in the oppressive structure of American capitalism. Of course the future is no more clear now than in April; however, the need for revolution in the name of justice and equality is clear to anyone of rational mind.
While there could be an entire blog post dedicated to the WILD planetary configurations over the last few months, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that as of June 29, Mars (the god of war) is in Aries, and will be for the next six months, which means that there will be a dramatic, reinvigorating positive energy shift now through the remainder of the year. This means that we will be internally and externally stronger than before. Pluto in retrograde says that positive change is coming and major transformation is underway. And that earth is recalibrating. So, Empath x Wex: A Triptych for me represents just this. The calm before the storm, before a major boost in energy that activates each of us on a deep, cellular level, causing an increase in motivation, alertness, ambitiousness, and empowerment. To quote the seminal Ohio band True Believers, “Accept it, Don’t you know it’s all in the stars”.
Image courtesy of the artists
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