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Nottingham Contemporary opens Geoffrey Farmer: Let’s Make the Water Turn Black

Nottingham Contemporary presents Geoffrey Farmer: Let’s Make the Water Turn Black an exhibition on view 12 October 2013–5 January 2014.

Presented in its emerging form at the REDCAT Gallery in Los Angeles in 2011, Let’s Make the Water Turn Black (2013) has been fully realised through a commission by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich, Nottingham Contemporary, Kunstverein Hamburg and Pérez Art Museum Miami. A large population of idiosyncratic sculptures—some assembled and transformed from movie props—make for a surreal pop cultural landscape. Their subtly animated movements, and the changing coloured light that bathes them, are determined by a self-generating musical score.

Let’s Make the Water Turn Black—named after an iconic 1968 Frank Zappa track—is anchored in the legendary American musician’s avant garde, musique concrète-inspired approach to rock, and the counter-culture music scene in Los Angeles of the 1960s to which he belonged. The performance is organised around a library of collected musical samples, Foley sounds and field recordings which relate to Zappa’s influences, to the physical environment he once occupied, and Farmer’s own interpretations of Zappa’s biography. Computer algorithms recompose the soundtrack each day, one day equating with Zappa’s life span. Farmer’s compositional techniques emulate the cut-up methods of William S. Burroughs and Edgar Varèse, as well as Zappa’s own Xenochrony, meaning ‘strange time.’

Farmer thinks of the whole installation as a single musical instrument. The work each day is unique and unpredictable. The result of an involved research process, the project further develops Farmer’s uncanny and performative approach to excavating large zones of obscured cultural memory and mixing these with personal insights and events from his own life.

Nottingham Contemporary
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