Creative archaeologist and journalist, Christine Finn, celebrated the role of the media, in Lead to Air, a performance art piece inspired by old newsroom technology and collaborative process, in sound, word, and action, performed at the Barn on Sunday January 22nd. The timing, on the Sunday of inauguration weekend, is a nod to the significant international news event and the long-form reporting, and deep investigation, of traditional Sunday newspapers.
Lead to Air is a multi-layered durational work. In an otherwise empty barn, Finn using a vintage Royal typewriter, typed for six hours onto a roll of continuous paper, which falling off the typewriter and the edge of the stage as an invitation for the audience to read. In headphones she was listening to another six-hour durational work, A Lot of Sorrow www.alotofsorrow.com by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson and Brooklyn-based Ohio band, The National, while the audience needed to make the journey to the salon of the Mill House to hear the music here. Lead to Air is not a collaboration with these artists, but a tribute to the work of collaborative technology and creativity.
Finn's piece was the consummation of various influences over her 40-year career as a writer, reporter, and artist. It was a homage to analogue newsroom technology, lino-type machines, the era of copy-takers, and a nod to Jack Kerouac's continuous paper manuscripts, Remedios Varo's 1961 surrealist painting Embroidering the Earth's Mantel, Tim Youd's 100 Novels project timyoud.com, and overlapping process: reporting as a form of poetry and performance as a form of archaeology. While exploring these over years, she found the catalyst for Lead to Air in a dark room at the Chicago Art Institute, where the video installation, A Lot of Sorrow, was playing on a continuous loop. The durational intensity and sound of the piece, her first encounter with The National's music, produced an unexpected recall: long hours working in British newsrooms in the 70s and 80s on press days, in particular the sound of typewriter keys continuing relentlessly against an advancing deadline, one shared by all the participants in the process. The work launched Finn's wider dig into the legacy of old media, and what has been lost - or retained - in the process of technological transformation.
A huge thank you to Ragnar Kjartansson and The National for their generous permission to use the inspirational art work and music of "A Lot of Sorrow"; and to those in the US and UK, who helped my project translate from idea to performance: Caroline Burghardt at Luhring Augustine, Elyse Cogan at BMG, Abby Rubin and Kathryn Braddick at Beggars label; Ed Horrox at 4ad, and Cally Callomon. To David Gersten, Che Perez, and Frida Foberg at Arts Letters & Numbers, much appreciation. And not least to Robert Dalton Harris and Diane DeBlois for kind loan of the vintage typewriter, and the Gramercy Typewriter Co, for help with the ribbons.