Kammer Klang @ Cafe Oto: Luxury Meets Kitchenware

We Spoke


The Kammer Klang series pretty much guarantees sonic encounters with the unexpected.
Consistently coming up with intriguing new live formats and motifs, their December 1st concert--a kinda whoopee winter opener--featured resident ensemble We Spoke (the combined forces of Serge Vuille & Mark Knoop), artist Jessie Marino and cellist Oliver Coates - flying solo, and in collaboration with video artist Lawrence Lek. Artist Philippe Daerendinger, in the meantime, shone in his absence with his 2015 urban video break Sensitivity Balls.

So what did this disparate group of artists cook up this time?

Butter Mania (2002)
The night opened with Marino/We Spoke's first offering Guillaume de Saint Cloud Suffers a Violent Dazzling (2015), for two shoebox cassette players and electronics. Like in the trio's second piece, Endless Shrimp (2015), for two performers, kitchen instruments and video, the sound floated between casually delivered spoken word and muddled retro noise - a duet of focused, unsmiling faces bending over their machines, serving cracking sonic-verbal-visual dishes with their guest. But that's typical We Spoke. Whether zooming in on the pioneering John Cage or playing the latest in kitchenware, they come up with challenging, fascinating ways to combine the trivial with the thoroughly educational, the silliness of everyone's inner child with the concealed musicality of everything that surrounds us. 

"Stop having boring lives", they spoke. We'll be happy to oblige.

Marino provided the most irksome piece of the night with Ritual I (2011), for snare drum, light and tape - making her point alright. Steadily attacking the drum and simultaneously accentuating the noise by turning on and off a lamp, our psyche suffered and our eyes struggled to adjust...Which drove us to the unavoidable conclusion (at least, us in this blog's company): We're all trapped in little pieces of reality we can't escape, from a deafening car engine to a snooping neighbour - yet, we lower our stunned stare, shut up and move on. The word in this writer's head was REACT, next time you get a chance.

The farcical Butter Mania, on the other hand,  the artist's 2012 video, was simply hilarious at times. Depicting a so-called Norwegian blogger lamenting the lack of butter in her country, (b)utterly at a loss during the baking high season of Christmas, it forced you to point the finger at yourself - you with the abundant supply of butter and the neighbours that can come to your rescue rain or shine. Concurrently, a woman in a sexy black dress and killer heels slow-danced (and heinously slipped) on chunks of slowly melting butter. Laugh as you may, the truth is, we don't understand..

A solitary Oliver Coates poured his frustration out on the cello with Music for Losers, Andrew Hamilton's piece (and a UK premiere) inspired by his visits to a friend battling a serious illness. You'd think it'd end up with weepy notes - but it was the anomaly of observing people that just can't win in life that fed the exasperated sound.

On from the solo to the grand scale of the closing performance, Coates retreated from the stage for his collaboration with video artist Lawrence Lek: Unreal Estate - Live brought to the big screen a magnified, twisted virtual reality with an ominous soundtrack of cello and electronics. Transporting us into a parallel universe where the Royal Academy of Arts has been sold to a Russian oligarch as his new luxury mega-pad, this disturbingly thought-provoking but visually stunning piece took no prisoners. Joni Zhu provided the voiceover in both English and Mandarin, translating text initially found in Russian Tatler magazine, imparting advice such as not to get into a fight with your helicopter pilot for being 5 min late, since you could jeopardize your family's safety. As you do..

Serge Vuille of We Spoke
Issues like the London housing crisis are no laughing matter, yet we laughed quite a bit. We flew through opulent corridors, but we were floored by the shortage of good old butter... The Kammer Klang series enlighten us in monthly doses at the dim-lit Cafe Oto, all the way until June. We can't promise it'll all be comfortable and easy, but it's a welcome surprise to see what those contemporary art fiends think of next...

Unreal Estate
Inside what was once the esteemed Royal Academy of Arts

Oliver Coates

                                          Lawrence Lek & Oliver Coates's Unreal Estate video


Text and photography by Danai Molocha. Opening image by Halit Ozturk.

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