To explain the idea behind “Queering Sound,” curator JS (Jim) Adams supplies a rough definition of the verb that inspired the title: “to put or get into an embarrassing or disadvantageous situation; to spoil or ruin the effect or success of.”
Sounds like the ol’ subverting-the-dominant-paradigm game. But “Queering Sound” is more than that; in its third annual exhibition/festival of performance and collaborative art by self-identified sexual-minority artists, Adams’ Triangle Artists Group seeks not just to distort or fragment, but to unifyand in some cases, to reunify by fragmentation.
“A lot of gay subculture is defined by dance music,” says Adams, a sound artist who works as BLK w/BEAR. So among other things, he uses turntablesthe old kind, “from our history as kids at school”to create “loop compositions.” For this “Queering Sound,” as in years past, visual artists Allison B. Miner, Ira Tattelman, Frederick Nunley, and Ruth Trevarrow have created “art labels” that interfere withor “queer”the playing action of the discs to which they are applied, closing the loop by kicking the tone arm back onto the vinyl surface each time the stylus hits the paper. In keeping with this year’s theme”Re:United”Adams’ newest pieces are based on Throbbing Gristle’s “United” and Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited.”
It’s all about “the recontextualization of social associations and community identifiers,” according to Adams’ Web site. But it’s hardly that dry and academic. Adams recalls an installation at the 2001 “Queering Sound” that exploited Sylk 130’s anthemic “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” as an audience singalong. Because the looped presentation presented no identifiable melody line, the result was “an anarchistic free expression of sound.”
Adams, 49, revels in the beauty of “the John Cagean happenstance” inherent in his work: “There’s enough things that go wrong, but there can be happy accidents.” Sometimes, though, happenstance just queers things a little too much. He recalls a performance where the tone arm moved all the way over to the label, creating a deafening white noise. “One of the TAG members finally said, ‘Oh, I’m sorryI’m interacting with this,’ and pulled the tone arm off [the label]. But then it went back and played the label again!” Pamela Murray Winters
“Queering Sound 03 [Re:United]” is at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, and Sunday, June 1, at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. $5. For more information, call (202) 462-7833