Walking into Lump’s 19th season opener, David Colagiovanni’s The Shredder Sessions, viewers entered a performance space set with fire bells, fans, microphone stands, prepared chord organs, colorful paper rolls, paper shredders, a kick drum, and wires. Paper shredders suspended overhead were stocked with rolls of red, blue, yellow, and beige paper. Surrounding the shredders were carefully dispersed objects that filled the space in an “unmonumental” style. The set resembled a collection of found repurposed parts that would transform into a kinetic sculpture.
Colagiovanni, who lives and works in Athens, Ohio, is also a member of the Raleigh-based collective Team Lump. Neill Prewitt, as well as Team Lump members Drew Robertson and Bill Thelen, joined Colagiovanni in manning the machine. The installation and performance was framed by the Hopscotch Music Festival that echoed through the streets of downtown Raleigh just a few blocks away.
The performers took their posts, three of them at podiums and one at a large kick drum. The sound was first introduced with a bell ringing, as if a palate cleanser. Reminiscent of school bells yet transformed into its own device, the bell was one of many circuit bent instruments. The set sporadically turned into a dynamic system as handmade contraptions and instruments stirred. As new mechanical sounds were added, the composition took on a dissonant nature. The piece was nonlinear but shaped as it moved in and out of crescendos and decrescendos.
The paper shredders switched on and off, and long, continuous paper shreds tangled into colorful piles on the floor. Over time, the shredders became like time markers leaving a residue of the actions. As the piles amassed, they blew in front of the fan creating new sounds. The outgrowth of the installation produced its own new instruments. What began as a tension of haunting chord organs intermixed with mechanical sounds of humming motors quickly melded into a well considered composition.
The Shredder Sessions bypassed a blatant critical agenda in order to embrace conceptual chance and play. The assortment of rigged instruments controlled by switchboards strongly suggests a process of tinkering in Colagiovanni’s studio. The presence of domestic goods points to daily experimentation, a practice of failures and mistakes. John Cage, a pioneering composer famous for his undeniably genius work 4’33’’, described his experimentation as “Purposeful Play.” Play leads to what he called “an affirmation of life.” The kind of play that he described can bring a sobering awareness to our present. By introducing elements of the everyday, Colagiovanni is inviting the viewer to consider new conditions of objects that one might assume already to know.
As with any live performance, chance creates a raw intimacy with the artist, which benefited Colagiovanni’s installation. While he composed the project, his collaborators introduced an element of chance, a valuable opportunity for the artist to detach his own dictation and allow the work to evolve beyond himself. The nonlinear composition, in addition to the unpredictable environment, amounted to a situation that could only exist once in one place at one time.Kellie Bornhoft is an artist and writer currently living in Raleigh, North Carolina. “The Shredder Sessions” was performed on September 5 and 6 at Lump, an artist-run project space in Raleigh, North Carolina. David Colagiovanni has an upcoming exhibition in collaboration with Melissa Haviland at Ohio State University’s Pearl Conard Gallery, opening October 13.