Artist C. Spencer Yeh performs a live adaptation of his project “America: The Artists Eye,” published by Triple Canopy on November 17, 2015. He is joined by Triple Canopy editors Lucy Ives and Alexander Provan.
“The primitive artist occupied a place that would later be filled by the photographer.” So says the warbling voice, at once earthy and genteel, of the female narrator in C. Spencer Yeh’s “America: The Artist’s Eye,” Florence Eldridge, an actress born in Brooklyn and nominated for a Tony Award in 1957. So says America: The Artist’s Eye, a three-minute-long educational film produced in 1963 by the Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. and later unearthed in a Maryland wood shop. So says one narrator among many whose voices are synthesized, reformatted, compressed, and embodied by Yeh in his quest to experience “the convergence of seemingly disparate modes of reproduction and even perceive the past and the present at once.” The reader is invited—by Yeh; by Spenser/Stephen C. Yeah, Hollywood somebody chasing that authentic vibe (“It’s like, man, how big is the freaking universe?!”); by Clavier Wilcox, purveyor of text-to-speech solutions; by the MPEG’d and remarkable self-taught artists of early America, who traveled the back roads on horseback or on foot in search of customers—to “visit your museum to see America through the eyes of our leading artists.” The reader recalls the soundtrack to American Beauty, makes a note to DL from iTunes for a yoga sesh.
For Voice at First Sight, Yeh will screen and read “America: The Artist’s Eye,” which was published in Triple Canopy’s Pointing Machines issue and emerged from Yeh’s collaborative work with the magazine as part of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Yeh will also present related works, including excerpts from a visual and musical interpretation of Alexander Calder’s Calder’s Circus (1926–31) and a series of dubbed music videos featuring amateur covers of popular songs. These songs tend to be released on iTunes and other online marketplaces, the authorship concealed by occasional pseudonyms, the impetus being the difference in cost between parroting and licensing the copyrighted version (the ultimate destination is often karaoke machines), the musicians being awkwardly accented and undistinguished. Yeh’s dubs meld the covers and the original music videos, and in so doing envision a world in which copies supplant originals. They are inspired by so-called private press LPs in which amateur musicians intuitively reproduce popular song forms, with results that are extremely various, and whose inventiveness cannot easily be separated from their derivativeness.
Yeh will joined in a conversation about his work by Triple Canopy coeditor Alexander Provan.
- C. Spencer Yeh is a musician, artist, and Triple Canopy contributing editor born in Taipei, Taiwan, and now living in Brooklyn. Yeh has performed and presented work in a variety of venues and exhibition spaces, including the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Bureau, the Kitchen, Issue Project Room (where he was an artist in resident in 2015), the Contemporary Art Center (Cincinnati), White Flag Projects (St. Louis), Sónar (Barcelona), All Tomorrow’s Parties, Performa 13, Kunsthall Stavanger (Norway), the Pérez Art Museum (Miami). He has collaborated on musical and artistic projects with Nate Wooley, Okkyung Lee, Justin Lieberman, Tony Conrad, and New Humans with Vito Acconci. Recent recordings include Solo Voice I–X, published by Primary Information; Wake Up Awesome, a collaboration with Okkyung Lee and Lasse Marhaug, published by Software Recording Co.; and Transitions, published by DeStijl. A new recording by New Monuments, Yeh’s trio with Ben Hall and Don Dietrich, is forthcoming on Bocian.