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I Want the Beatles to Play at My Art Center!
Prisma Records / HOK

As JP mentioned in his review of the 2LP set of the same title, the exhibition I Want the Beatles to Play at My Art Center! also launched a DVD, as well as a voluminous book. This DVD release is sub-titled DVD Video From the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter Archives 1968-2012, and it holds two documentaries, as well as a number of performances and commissioned works from HOK. The exhibition is curated, compiled and researched (the 2LP, the DVD and the book titled Mot det totale museum) by Lars Mørch Finborud.

The two documentaries opening the DVD - Epoke (1968, produced by NRK - the Norwegian broadcasting company), a 15 minutes long TV production, and A Forum Of The Arts (1970, dir. Pål Bang-Hansen); a 45 minute (originally shot and presented on 35mm) - are fine historical introductions to the birth of HOK. The former is somewhat stiff and formal television program (of that era), while the latter has got more of an artistic view and approach when presenting HOK. As a pair the two films are a suitable match, presenting interviews with founders Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad, plus some of the art (of any shape and colour, content and context) the HOK is meant to house.

The performances & commissioned works part of the DVD holds a small pick from HOK's archives, and presents an Art Center aiming for experimentation and border-crossing for decades. Showing/presenting 'music as art', or 'art as music', or 'music meets art', or vice versa. In fact, from the very beginning this was part of HOK's vision, with Arne Nordheim's electronic/contemporary composition "Solitaire" (based on the poem "Les bijoux" from Les fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire) written especially for the Art Centre's opening of in 1968 as a good example. Nordheim is only present in a short glimpse in the 'documentary section', from the opening night. Plus, of course, on the 2LP. Among the performances we find a diverse collection of samples from the archives, with oddities/rarities, such as "A silent tour of the Norwegian Studio for Electronic Music with Hal Clark" (1975) - which in fact is silent (as well as being black and white footage), the wild, wonderful and colourful (even though this is another B/W clip...) Kjartan Slettemark's "Poodle performance at HOK" (1975) - with the artist dressed... in a poodle outfit, and Mauricio Kagel's (excerpt from) "EX-POSITION" (1978) - with a 'megaphone choir' (Grex Vocalis), percussion, rhythm generators, piano, and gymnastics (a group of high-school students from Cologne). This is the modern dance!

The oldest clip included is the acclaimed Norwegian rock-turned-jazz-turned-rock-turned-jazz guitarist/composer Terje Rypdal's (excerpt from) "Orfeus vender seg og ser på Eurydike" (Orpheus turns and looks at Eurydice, by Rypdal/Kaj Nissen 1972), which was written for a performance, and performed by the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra (another clip from a NRK production). Modern opera, for sure, starring Norwegian baritone Knut Skram and Swedish (lyric-dramatic) soprano Jadwiga Koba. We get an excerpt from "Skapelser" (Creations, 1978) by electronic artist Lasse Thoresen (with graphic visuals by Thoresen and Jannicke Falk), whose works "...concentrate on a contemporary transformation of the folk-music traditions". It's a somewhat meditative piece. Stian Skagen & Monica Winther's installation work "The Inward Rising" (2008), on the other hand, is a more brutal piece of work, with noisy sound, and flashy visuals (nothing for an epileptic like me...). Skagen (a.k.a. [concept.virus], b. 1980) - one of Scandinavia's leading sound-artists, having toured as a part of noise-experimental outfit Ryfylke, with noise-rock band Årabrot, or as part of the duo Nernes/Skagen - along with Kjetil Nernes of Årabrot. Winter (b. 1976) has labelled her signature works " installations which are constructed out of an abundance of text, sound, video, and light". Following up Skagen & Winther's noise-track we also find KILLL (Martin Horntveth of Jaga Jazzist, Erlend Mokkelbost of JR Ewing, Are Mokkelbost of Single Unit and ARM, and Espen Hangård of No Place To Hide) "Live at HOK" (2009), and improv two-some MoHa! (gents Anders Hana on guitar and extreme noise electronics, and Morten J. Olsen on drums) and Idan & Anu (who are Idan Hayosh and Anu Vahtra). Hayosh (b. 1979, in Tel-Aviv), lives and works in Amsterdam, while Anu Vahtra (b. 1982, in Tallinn, Estonia) is based in his home-country. MoHa! and Idan & Anu performs "Fire & Ignorance" (2009), in pure drum'n'noise meets wild light-show.

The 'closing' performance on this DVD are Masselys, Christopher Nielsen & Matt Willis-Jones' "Jimmy Polaris" (2011). Masselys are ex-Salvatore members Kjell-Olav Jørgensen, Bjarne Larsen and John Birger Wormdahl, plus Jonas Hestvik Dahl (of 120 Days, Beautiful People). Cartoonist/animator Christopher Nielsen has contributed some of his familiar characters (mainly from the Free Jimmy, and just the outlines of the figures only) as repetitive dancers/movers, in a contour vs. colour dance beat-ballet. Visual effect maker Matt Willis-Jones has also contributed to this dance-show tagged as "...a cacophony of psychedelic picture experiments to rhythmical music - mutated disco and repetitive patterns of drums, bass, guitar, synth and samples". This show was released on CD last year; Jimmy Polaris - Live at Henie Onstad Art Centre (Prisma Records). I find this clip to be one of the better, more interesting performances on this DVD, though I guess being present at the live performance was way cooler.

Even though most composers included here are Norwegians, there's a couple of 'foreigners': One is art music pioneer, avant-gardist, composer, music theorist John Cage with his oral piece "Muoyce" (1983). There's also a short interview with Cage (again, by NRK), where he talks about modern art and modern music, communication and the purpose of music, etc. Then there's Seattle, WA musician (guitar, piano, etc.), producer and composer Stephen O'Malley, a.k.a. SOMA; drone-death-doom-improv experimentalist, known from his band Sunn O)))), with his work "La Petite Gèante" (2009) - holding grand piano, cello and two contrabasses. A misty and mystic, doomy and gloomy piece of music, yet fascinating and spellbinding. All in all it's my favourite pick off this DVD. Along with the aforementioned "Jimmy Polaris".

HOK for sure is a forum of the arts. To quote former HOK director Ole Henrik Moe's statement when HOK opened in '68: "And now we take the first step into the future." This is maybe aural and visual art from the past, for the future?

Copyright © 2012 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our V/A article/review: I Want The Beatles To Play At My Art Center! (2xLP).

© 2012 Luna Kafé