Dawn Kasper and friends, Music for Hoarders, Honor Fraser, Culver City, September 9, 2010

Honor Fraser’s new LAB project room, located in the former Angstrom Gallery space, was the perfectly cavernous environment in which to present Music for Hoarders, Dawn Kasper’s latest project and performance, co-presented by Country Club. The piece, developed during Kasper’s recent residency at the Millay Colony, brought together the artist’s own hoarding/OCD style (prominently explored in other works) and a conglomeration of musical improvisation that included players on clarinet, guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, violin, cello, mandocaster (an electric mandolin), vocals, and something transmitted via Skype. The result was a fairly evocative space crammed full of furniture and random clutter, ringed by plugged-in noisemakers borrowing heavily from the vocabulary of the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray, and punctuated by Kasper’s constant re-arranging of objects and a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy on her relationship with her mother.

While I enjoyed the evening on a sensual level, I am not sure about what it means for Kasper’s practice. As when Dylan went electric, the bringing of Kasper’s textured psychological explorations to a more amplified stage gives one pause. The artist’s inquiries into her own inner life and the oddities of her relationships with others tend to flourish in more intimate and/or domestic environments, like a small gallery space or someone’s home. The subtle twists and turns that her mind is prone to may be in danger of getting lost, or diluted, on too big of a stage, and indeed, some of the allure of Kasper’s work seemed flattened by the grandiosity of Music for Hoarders. Instead of being intriguing, it felt like a retread of past habits.

Still, I have to admit the setting was conducive to a climactic grappling with mother issues, usually the biggest issues that anyone has to deal with. The centerpiece of the performance was Kasper climbing to the top of a mountain of rubble (like a self-conscious Moses) and telling us about a messed-up exchange between her and her mother. It ended with Kasper saying that we take shit from our loved ones because that’s how we love them—we take the shit and just put it away somewhere, like a hoarder. Then the music and vocals started up again, and Kasper continued her Sisyphean rummaging, only stopping when she finally managed to balance a blue plastic kiddie pool atop a precariously tall mountain of furniture, much to the delight (or relief) of onlookers.

Was this a blow-out of sorts, signaling the end of a certain phase of Kasper’s work, and perhaps the beginning of a move into another direction? It does feel like she’s ripe for a transition of some sort, and I for one am particularly curious about where she will go next.

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