Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 7:30pm
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
The fin-de-millennium scene orbiting around Providence’s Fort Thunder produced a generation of artists and musicians who continue to influence contemporary culture, and Forcefield was responsible for some of the most remarkable audio-visual experiments of that now-legendary era. Notorious for their dazzle-patterned, faceless knitwear, mutational electronic performances, and color-drenched videos, the group began in the mid-nineties as a pseudonymic duo comprised of Patootie Lobe (Ara Peterson) and Meerk Puffy (Mat Brinkman), eventually ingesting Gorgon Radeo (Jim Drain) and Le Geef (Leif Goldberg) into its fold.
Writing about their sonic output, Electronic Arts Intermix states that “Forcefield’s recordings are slippery, at first seeming to be no more than pulsing sound strung along a digital time line, with little ‘music’ other than oscillating clusters of notes and chords. But like a 3-D optigram, the music suddenly pops into relief: sly morphings between rhythm and melody; a fussy attention to texture; cadences appearing and falling away almost symphonically. Beats crop up that you can nearly move to, or tunes you can nearly hum, but soon they’ve melted back into the ether. There are distorted voices too-bellowing, chattering, bickering cyborgs and humans, transmissions from remote worlds or from just down the block. In the course of eight albums, Forcefield has evolved a truly psychedelic music, somehow unmetaphorical and darkly fantastic at once.”
“The videos operate on several levels simultaneously, with a sensibility that oscillates between utter seriousness and a sublime form of deadpan,” EAI continues. “Goofball humor and a sense of menace may arise at the same moment. The group is also concerned with technology's uses and abuses, and throughout their work they employ vintage analog signal-processors and defunct electronics. This strategic emphasis on ‘low’ forms and formats, poor signal resolution, and willful crudeness reflects the ambivalence of a generation deluged with electronics and rapidly-obsolescing consumer equipment. Similarly, some of their more fantastical narrative conventions and science fiction references, no matter how abstracted, mark a complex relation to the framing devices of television. Ultimately, Forcefield has constructed a conflicted, decaying symbology, a patchwork aesthetic that collapses the neo-primitivist and the futurist into a vision that could have been crafted from the detritus of a post-nuclear future, even as it draws on the recent past and the post-industrial present.”
Forcefield's activities percolated underground for over half a decade in run-down Rhode Island until they reached mainstream art-world attention with their inclusion in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. “Their contribution to that show was a pandemonium of ear-cracking sound, seizure-inducing films, and bewigged mannequins sheathed in the collective’s trademark knit Afghans, which look like they were produced by a team of Taylorist acidheads with industrial looms,” Rachel Kushner wrote of that exhibition. “With an engagé ethos involving anticommercial, trash-assimilating, egoless creativity binges, Forcefield answered the hungry call for a new radicalism in the art world.” Perhaps under the pressures that came from their new post-Biennial profile, Forcefield disbanded abruptly soon after, releasing their final album in 2003 just as their wider influence crested.
Tonight, Light Industry presents several video compilations created by Forcefield and first distributed as VHS tapes, often available as table-merch at shows. Forcefield Video Collection includes some of their earliest pieces, featuring sad robots, chromatic strobes, and footage of a performance at Providence’s Safari Lounge. Originally created for projection behind their live shows, Forcefield Assassins was described by the group as “Forcefield in its darkly-shrouded assassin period,” and includes their first foray into abstract stop-motion animation, crafted with gobs of plasticine and a meat-slicer, a technique continued in their film Third Annual Roggabogga Motion Picture, shown as part of their display at the Whitney. ZMTRX collects some of their final videos, combining minimal camera work with maximized costuming, concluding in an extended, strobing geometric abstraction that evokes the earliest days of analog image processing. “Using a zooming motif,” the group stated, “ZMTRX is the most optically violent of the four tapes and shows Forcefield going from physical form to oblivion.”
Forcefield Video Collection
1996-2000, video, 20 mins
Video I, 1996
Video II, 1996
The Sad Robot, 1996
Video III, 2000
Live 2000, 2000
2001-02, video, 20 mins
Tunnel Vision, 2001
Assassins Ride, 2002
Third Annual Roggabogga Motion Picture, 16mm on video, 2002, 6 mins
2002-03, video, 28 mins
Berry Face, 2002
Meta Radeo, 2003
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.