Moment Trigger and Nancy Popp, curated by Dino Dinco, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Hollywood, December 2, 2010

Curator Dino Dinco outdid himself with this inspired pairing of performance artist Nancy Popp with local noise/thrash/psychedelic band Moment Trigger. I really didn’t know what to expect going into it, but as the combination of forces revealed itself, all of the pieces, in my opinion, fell together nicely.

Noise bands are pretty much a force of nature, and so it was with Moment Trigger, who launched into their eardrum-shattering set without much fanfare, enthralling their audience with about 40 minutes of livid yet infectious noise. It was up to Popp to provide a more measured response to their unbridled energy, and as it turned out, a noise concert was the perfect setting for her to continue the type of exploration she engaged in for the ACP-curated Three Women, way back in December of last year. As in that performance, large sheets of seamless background paper were unfurled and used to divide the space and the people in it. Rather than reveling in the process of unrolling it, however, the parameters were more theatrical this time out. The paper was pre-hung in two concentric rectangles around the band, forming a hide-and-seek stage setting that diffused the connection between band and audience. Moment Trigger was always heard, but sometimes only partially seen.

Stripped down to her white skivvies, Popp glided quietly through this environment, at first doing nothing but feeling her way around in it. Then, she slowly began to violate the white paper barriers. She bent and then tore through one sheet with her hands, placing her head and shoulders and later, her entire body, through the gaps she created. Producing a collection of X-Acto knife blades, she went to another sheet and dotted it with the blades, as though placing pins on a map, or tracing an outline. On a third sheet, she placed a blade in her mouth and rubbed her face in the paper, trying to puncture it. Finally, she got down on her belly and inched her way underneath another sheet of paper, moving down its length like a white worm.

The various cuts made by Popp reminded me strongly of the work of Lucio Fontana, whose slashed and perforated canvases of the 1950s were an early entry in the foregrounding of the physicality of materials as it sought “an art in which our idea of art cannot intervene.” This reference is not inappropriate in the context of a noise concert, which of course, is also a violent but not artless stripping down to the mechanics of a medium. The use of razor blades also recalled the punk rock days of yore, speaking to the original roots of today’s noise rock. Thus, Popp’s actions were both a poetic mirror of and a gentle foil to Moment Trigger’s work.

The confluence of a noise audience with a contemporary art audience was also intriguing. Or perhaps I should call this a reunion, given the intertwined histories of noise and performance art in the twentieth century. At this particular event, the art people hovered around the space, watching the action at a remove, while the noise fans did not hesitate to join in with Popp, making their own gashes in the paper and jumping into the central space to dance with the band. It was an evenly-matched cacophony that congealed into that most unlikely of things: a balanced and evocative participatory performance.

Enjoy more photos below, as well as some video footage here.

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