MAR­CO FUSINA­TO: Mass Black Implosion

Julian Day
Art Almanac September 2017
Look­ing at a Mass Black Implo­sion’ draw­ing is like watch­ing the Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con leap into hyper­space – your sense of time and space con­dens­es from the macro into the micro. Artist and musi­cian Mar­co Fusina­to has been draw­ing the series for ten years and is exhibit­ing the lat­est instal­ment at Anna Schwartz Gallery in Mel­bourne. His orig­i­nal impulse was to inves­ti­gate my inter­est in noise as music”. Each work repro­duces a sig­nif­i­cant score from the his­to­ry of exper­i­men­tal music by the likes of Ian­nis Xenakis, John Cage or Per­cy Grainger, com­posers known for attempt­ing to extend the lan­guage of music.” Fusina­to draws straight lines from each note­head towards a sin­gle point, often in the cen­tre of the page, cre­at­ing a dra­mat­ic data visu­al­i­sa­tion of each composition’s implied son­ic den­si­ty. This aes­thet­ic has become Fusinato’s call­ing card, grac­ing the cov­ers of records (Antho­ny Pat­eras’ Chro­matophore’), books (David Grubbs’ Records Ruin The Land­scape’) and it made Fusinato’s name inter­na­tion­al­ly when the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, New York City, includ­ed some pieces in its first major sound show Sound­ings’ (2013). The most ambi­tious set with­in the series, a repro­duc­tion of British com­pos­er Cor­nelius Cardew’s epic 193-page score Trea­tise’ (196367), fea­tured recent­ly in the first iter­a­tion of The Nation­al’ at the Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Aus­tralia. His now-trade­mark ges­ture com­pli­cates the peren­ni­al ques­tion of what a score is (a ques­tion also being asked in The Score’ at the Ian Pot­ter Muse­um of Art, which includes one of the draw­ings). Is the score an his­tor­i­cal cache that archives the composer’s inten­tions? Is it sum­ma­tive, describ­ing the ide­al aur­al result, or a prac­ti­cal set of chore­o­graph­ic instruc­tions that a per­former brings to life? Is it a composition’s cen­tral text’, per­haps even the work itself? In the 20th cen­tu­ry, many com­posers placed great impor­tance on their scores’ phys­i­cal appear­ance and took at least as much care over them as the sub­se­quent per­for­mance. Cardew, for one, was by day a bold son­ic polemi­cist and by night a pro­fes­sion­al graph­ic design­er, adding anoth­er lit­er­al lay­er to Fusinato’s over­lays. The pre­car­i­ous nature of the exper­i­men­tal scene meant that some­times the score was all that lit­er­ate fans ever encoun­tered. Cardew returns in this new set along­side favourites John Cage and Anestis Logo­thetis. New­com­ers include the eccen­tric and influ­en­tial French com­pos­er Erik Satie, whose for­ward-think­ing Ogives’ pre­dates oth­ers in the series by some decades, and the Argen­tin­ian com­pos­er Mauri­cio Kagel whose anar­chic 1970 music the­atre work Lud­wig Van’ com­mem­o­rat­ing Beethoven’s 200th birth­day is here brought to heel. Also appear­ing is George Crumb’s ampli­fied string quar­tet Black Angels’, a wrench­ing response to the Viet­nam War, and Steve Reich’s rarely-heard Phase Pat­terns’ whose for­mal­ist struc­tures are obvi­ous can­di­dates for the Fusina­to treat­ment. Through his decep­tive­ly straight­for­ward approach, Fusina­to under­scores the dis­junc­ture between object and action. On the one hand, focus­ing on a score’s visu­al­i­ty main­tains its exist­ing silence and with­holds the poten­cy of a sub­se­quent per­for­mance. Fur­ther­more, over­lay­ing one rig­or­ous visu­al log­ic on anoth­er is visu­al­ly and con­cep­tu­al­ly recur­sive – a fin­ished draw­ing upon a fin­ished draw­ing. Yet the results crack­le with pow­er. Indeed, Fusina­to con­sid­ers these recom­po­si­tions” to be new scores. If you per­formed his addi­tions lit­er­al­ly, play­ing every note at once, you’d hear a com­plex flash of noise – a moment of con­sol­i­da­tion and sin­gu­lar impact”. This recalls Fusinato’s infa­mous Aether­ic Plexus (Bro­ken X) (2103), in which a col­lapsed conur­ba­tion of the­atre lights and speak­ers daz­zles unsus­pect­ing view­ers with an unex­pect­ed burst of light and noise. Nonethe­less, it’s hard to rec­on­cile the image of Fusina­to painstak­ing­ly inscrib­ing each line with the blis­ter­ing heat of his actu­al live sets. Recent­ly at Dark Mofo he played ear-bleed­ing­ly loud elec­tric gui­tar along­side upturned cars struck as per­cus­sion. The vol­ume was at least 30 times loud­er than pass­ing traf­fic. Yet whilst Fusina­to grew up obsessed by punk these pris­tine scores remain safe­ly behind glass. Is this sim­ply re-invest­ing the val­ue of the score as object against the mate­r­i­al vis­cer­al­i­ty of per­for­mance?

I’m inter­est­ed in both,” says Fusina­to. There’s an allure and beau­ty with the object but what it pro­pos­es is men­ac­ing. A lot of my work relies on that ten­sion… between noise/​silence, minimalism/​maximalism, Hi/​Lo and so on.” As a series Mass Black Implo­sion’ acts as a use­ful primer to the exper­i­men­tal music canon, despite the coun­ter­in­tu­itive implied results (few con­certs would jux­ta­pose the diver­gent work of Murail, Crumb and Reich). Fusinato’s process also func­tions as an intrigu­ing if ellip­ti­cal musi­co­log­i­cal tool. Whilst Cage’s spare Con­cert for Piano and Orches­tra’ yields an expect­ed visu­al trans­paren­cy, the sur­face sim­plic­i­ty of Satie unex­pect­ed­ly resem­bles the lush com­plex­i­ty of Tris­tan Murail. Ulti­mate­ly, it is both a dis­tend­ed per­son­al playlist and a cri­tique on who and what gets pub­lished and then what I can get my hands on at any giv­en moment. Like any indus­try… pow­er, con­trol and distribution.”

Julian Day is an artist, com­pos­er, writer and broad­cast­er. Pho­tog­ra­phy: Andrew Curtis.

Pic­tured: MAR­CO FUSINA­TO, Mass Black Implo­sion (Black Angels, George Crumb), 2017 (detail part 1 of 5). Ink on archival fac­sim­i­le of score, 5 parts, each 74.4101.3 cm (framed).

Anna Schwartz Gallery Until 30 Sep­tem­ber, 2017 Melbourne

Ian Pot­ter Muse­um of Art Until 5 Novem­ber 2017 Melbourne

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