Lecture Performance: Occu-Pie (Chemnitz, Germany)

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September 17, 2011, a talking coin circulated through the New York streets of Occupy Wall Street blending outrage and humor to proclaim broken trust in capitalism. In the utopian urban camp, the talking coin met an activist from the 1970’s known for throwing pies in the face of the powerful. Noah Fischer, the talking coin of 2011, speculates on methods beyond the violence of pies for confronting dystopia head on.

After the lecture performance, we will connect live with activists from Maidan, Gezi and Algiers via video chat to remeasure utopian spaces between hope, energy and frustration.

The event takes place in English. A whisper translation is provided.

A cooperation within the program new undiscovered narrative and the Chemnitz Open Space of the Chemnitz Art Collections.


Queen Mother of Reality at Performa 13


A project of Performa 13, artist Pawel Althamer in collaboration with Noah Fischer, Roman Stanczak, Szymon & Bruno Althamer, Rafal Zwirek and the Aaron Burr Society present a space of performative possibility at BiBA of Williamsburg, open from November 2-21 2013.

A project of Performa 13, artist Pawel Althamer in collaboration with Noah Fischer, Roman Stanczak, Szymon & Bruno Althamer, Rafal Zwirek and the Aaron Burr Society present a space of performative possibility at BiBA of Williamsburg, open from November 2-21 2013. It will culminate in a feast, a monumental sculpture, and a ceremony in honor of all mothers displaced from their homes.  Set  against Manhattan’s skyline on the Williamsburg waterfront, BiBA of Williamsbug is the venue selected by artist Pawel Althamer.  Sited near rising luxury towers, it’s a symbol of the rapid development and consequent displacement in New York City.  We feel that dignity of place is an essential matter of citizenship.

 Queen Mother Dr. Louis Blakely: Community Mayor of Harlem and Goodwill Ambassador to Africa at the United Nation will be present at the dinner to accept a gift from the artists, and to bless the 50 foot long steel and mixed media sculpture “Queen Mother of Reality” which will be ceremonially moved to a spot beside the East River.  Szymon Althamer, master chef based in Warsaw will design a unique performative feast followed by live music and dancing at BiBA.



Random Randal

published in SalonIndus

The fact that I’m sitting in my apartment in New York City scribbling for an art publication out of New Delhi is just another bit of proof that the world is getting smaller.  Social circles are connecting, globalization is happening in the arts and across nearly every discipline.  As markets merge, we’re starting to see global scale problems: massive multi-nation financial collapse sparked by the Global boom of credit-based value.   And this pales in comparison to the meltdown of the planet’s climate.  I don’t want to impose US-style Armageddon thinking here, it’s true that my nation loves to consume disaster movies, but years into a historical economic crisis and weeks after Hurricane Sandy submerged the New York subway system for the first time, a distressed global future seems to have arrived.  This present-future necessarily becomes the backdrop for culture making, because art, though consciously historical, is always of its time.  I believe that artistic practice is sometimes finely calibrated and sometimes rather randomly, well suited to respond to change.  As an artist, it’s my job to explore these potentialities, pushing art toward greater relevance. How are the meaning, value, and authorship of art changing in the information age? Which art practices and historical models best respond to the unstably shifting world picture?

Random Randal was created in 2010 at the invitation of Anil Dayanand, professor at the RLV College of Art in Tripunithra, Kerala. With Anil’s invitation came a mission to connect my artistic practice into collaboration with a wide range of artists I had never met before.  The community at RLV College proved adept at cohering into a body that collectively designed and carried out a project of high complexity. Random Randal responded to a growing global need for sharing and trans-national community.

Ironically, I played the role of Neoliberal culture-colonizer when I was first introduced to the Indian art world in 2006. Fresh from my MFA degree at Columbia University, I was hired by a blue chip gallery in New York to make recommendations about which hot contemporary Indian artist they might include in their “stable” (group of gallery artists).  The sad fact is that I knew absolutely nothing about Indian art, had never travelled to India, didn’t even know many India Americans…nothing.  A prominent curator who also knew nothing about India had recommended me as a favor and this landed me the job. Airfare wasn’t part of the contract so I became an Internet traveller to the Subcontinent, feverishly googling “India” and “contemporary art” and occasionally picking up the phone and calling curators or critics or artists whose name would come up in searches. I accessed lists of artists included in Biennials or represented by German or Australian or US galleries, or selling at auction.  The finer grain, local networks of artists were invisible to me. More alarmingly, I had no real sense of the context or history of Indian art. I was operating at a speed that precluded an understanding of what I was looking at, hungering for highly visual images and easiest-to-digest concepts. In the end, the superficiality of this cultural foray was quite depressing: art converted to information more for the love of profit than culture. But through this research I met Anil Dayanand online, who at that time was writing for Matters of Art, an online publication out of New Delhi.

I made my first trip to India in 2009. This was after a rollercoaster ride when the market energy was buzzing in New York and I was exhibiting internationally. Then in 2008, the market fell off a cliff in the US. I had a solo show up at the time, collectors were walking around in shock and nothing sold. My gallery brought me to the 2008 art fair in Miami, and it felt discordant to attend luxury pool parties at a time when many Middle Class people were losing life savings. That was time for a change and I bought a ticket to India, a journey in which I would nearly circle the country. I stopped to visit some of the people I had met virtually.

The next year, I decided to return. I had been in a correspondence with Anil about a possible collaboration and the timing worked out just right: he was able to invite me as a participant in the “Trans-Trends Festival” hosted by the RLV college of art.  The festival had been conceived by the students and professors at RLV and given the theme of  “inter-visuality,” which was a passport to cross-pollination of traditional media and where new media such as video and online work took prominent place.  Anil and curator Bipin Balechandran had designed the festival for a constituency of art students from all over India for a program of critiques, studio visits, music and dance performances, parties, meals, and lecture-presentations by visiting luminaries such as Shivaji Pannikar and Gulam Muhammed Sheik. My presence in the festival was a bit of a wild card, but my previous work certainly fit well into the theme of inter-visuality.

I knew that I wanted to work primarily with human energy as a medium. At the time, I was interested in a kinetic experience that drew social and physical bodies together into a functional “human machine.” This concept developed from a previous body of mechanized installations, some quite complex such as Pop Ark (2008) employing lights/motors/soundtracks and running mechanically on their own. Parallel to this, I was also involved in experimental theater in Europe, which got me addicted me to the cathartic power of the “live moment.”  My first human machine was called Electrical Forest: made in Troy which was an assembly line in which hundreds of volunteer “workers” mass-produced artistic leaves in timed work-shifts.  We ended up with a huge production of leaves printed on film but the surprising by-product was a great amount of uplifting energy and a creative spirit of adult play.

Random Randal began with a cup of tea in a roadside tea shack near RLV College, followed by a meeting with Anil and Bipin and others in a small faculty room. I presented my skeleton of an idea about the human machine and it began to develop collectively in the room. Anil noted that languages from all over India were present for the conference and that this could be a resource and a theme.  Create some kind of language machine. How would this language be organized? “It has to be Random” said Bipin. At the time I was interested in the lantern as a symbol for truth, and sculpturally the light-emitting form was perfect for the “inter-visuality” theme. So the project would be called Random Randal (Randal means “lantern” in Malayalam). There would be two stages: the carving of language stamps to create a “random text library” and secondly, the fabrication of giant bamboo lanterns with thatched coconut roofs, like little traditional huts.  The lanterns would join with the text library in a hybrid festival/assembly-line, a big multi-media performance that resembled a 1960’s era art “happening,” and became a central moment in the whole festival. Finally, the completed and illuminated lanterns would be hung in the RLV main space, and wired for an electric light show. It was an ambitious project.

RLV is architecturally and pedagogically divided up into two halves: one side for contemporary visual arts, the other for more traditional Carnatic music and dance. These disciplines stayed separate as a rule. But as Random Randal gained steam in the already heightened context of the TransTrends festival, the lines began to blur, challenging the ingrained separation of disciplines. Musicians offered to drum at the center of the lantern-making festival and music became the motor that powered and modulated the event. Next, daring groups including students and instructors of traditional Carnatic dance volunteered to pitch in, choreographing movements in relation to the lantern-production. Their graceful fluidity through the space, dressed in matching orange and white, unlocked a physical capacity of all the participants, and the whole assembly line became a giant dance. Within the space of the performance itself, a “random” potential took shape and spontaneous things began to happen.  Anil Dayanand appeared, dressed in clean white and led by a pack of bell-ringing students. He offered himself up to be stamped on his chest, head, and back by the random language assembly-line.  As the performance went on, his skin and clothes blackened with a scrambled archive of words from multiple regions in India. Anil made an autonomous performance, which drew on and added to the collective energy of Random Randal.

The institutions that uphold Visual Art have long repeated the myth of the solitary artist.  From Fra Angelico’s monastic cell in early Renaissance Florence to Jackson Pollack’s barn (and in movies such as Basquiat and Dhobi Ghat) the genius-artist struggles alone until the great discovery arrives.  Certainly there is some truth to this myth; many artists do enjoy the interiority of creative space, and the mental quasi spiritual “zone” that becomes available after hours of focus.  But the myth of working alone can also be isolating and sets the conditions for art to act as a prison, shutting  artists off from the outside world.  And behind this myth of the triumphant individual sits an economic model as well. This was reflected in my online research into the Indian art world in 2006, which furnished me with a short-list of art-stars: Subbed Gupta, Bharti Ker and the like, totally ignoring most of the people who collectively create the thing we call “culture” through learning, teaching, sharing, supporting, and collaborative work.  Art stars can be wonderful artists, but economically, they are name brands that can be placed on a particular aesthetic, which can then circulate the globe at enormous profits.

Random Randal worked by a different logic. I arrived on the scene via a “random” friendship with Anil, unmediated by the chain of approval from gallery, museum, or other art institution that creates cultural capital and often prompts international invitations. Likewise, the participating students were ambitious: some very interested in entering the market, but they were above all eager to learn and the theme of the festival was boundary- blurring, which set the groundwork for spirited collaboration. Random Randal was collectively developed from the start, with Anil and Bipin and also with the input of the students involved and this collectivity moved it away from my authorship and toward a cultural experience that was widely shared and could be modulated into smaller autonomous projects like Anil’s performance. As the lanterns took shaped within an energetic process over the week, it came apparent that the art objects (lanterns) rather than commodities were mediating objects for connection, and information/experience sharing.  Their illumination stood for the temporary brightness of making new friends and sharing a heightened experience. The American artist Laurie Anderson speaks about art as an instrument for special sensorial experience: the transformation-possibility in seeing rather than a museum-quality object is her goal.  I would agree with her, but add the goal of social connection.

In the few years after Random Randal, though I have not travelled back to India, I have stayed in touch many of the student participants through Facebook.  Updates of designer Bibil Kumar, painters Sudipta Das and Eldho George and many others pop up on my wall, we chat and share work or random thoughts. This relatively new culture of algorithmic networking creates one big jumbled conversation of random thoughts, news headlines, ideas, and kinetic streams of more information that we are coming to accept as our culture. Perhaps this points to a future where culture is better understood as a collective project than it is today, and perhaps tools and models that acknowledge and support a broader cultural ecology are on their way. Random Randal was like an physical embodiment of an random online world: we danced, sweat, shared, and created together with our hands, challenging conventions as traditional music merged with an assembly line. The text library representing numerous Indian languages, numerous voices, was filtered into a dance.  It was a project about communication and sharing which included but surpassed words. Art is an ancient practice and a human necessity. Within it, there is much promise for a globalized future where “global” means merging differences, taking chances and supporting the roots of culture.

Performance with the Aaron Burr Society at the Austrian Cultural Forum


On Monday, January 23rd, Noah Fischer joined Jim Costanzo of the Aaron Burr Society to perform a distribution of stamped dollar bills and smashed pennies for the opening of a show titled “It’s the Political Economy Stupid.” The show is curated by Gregory Sholette.


Time Republic

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We write the year 50 according to the calculation of time by the cosmic comsomolzkis: In 1957 the Soviet Union managed to shoot a small ‘accompanist’ into orbit and thus gave the starting signal for space-travel. A sputnik-shock for the western world because finally it became obvious that the Soviet-Union was now able to reach America with rockets. From this zero-point TIME REPUBLIC takes off to tell another story of the 20th century about forgotten promises of a future past. And about this last cosmonaut, who was circulating alone in outer space in 1991, while deep down below him on Earth the Soviet-Union dissolved. andcompany&Co. is searching for the presence of the future in the present and thus resorts to the past to found a state, which doesn’t exist on a territory, but in time. The stage turns into a retro-futurist cockpit to steer the time-shuttle. All tools at hand, the seven performer/ temponauts are in constant interaction with light, music, movement and image – the stage is simultaneously a rink and an installation. The cold war is brought to the stage as victory over the sun and Ronald Reagan’s fear of an alien-invasion is answered by Juri Gagarin with a smile like a gift from the sky: “The cosmos is dark, comrades, very dark.”

“They tell the history of the arm’s race and the Cold War as a language-acrobatically music-theatre. In long, tongue-twisting sentences they pile the scenarios of the balance of fright onto each other, until these talk-cascades become unspeakable. In between there are speeches about the men on the moon and training for zero-gravity. It is charming how this whole huge history is told with means which seem like children’s early education.”
Katrin Bettina Müller, TAZ 13.10.2007

read more about Time Republic here. 

Revolutionary Timing


Revolutionary Timing is a performance by andcompany&Co., based on an improvisation at the first &Co.LAB in Amsterdam in May 2005 and performed in the lighting- and sculpture-setting of New York based artist Noah Fischer in the ground floor of the AT&T building in Manhattan in March 2006. The initial idea was to re-appropriate the revolutionary cutting technique of the filmmaker Sergej Eisenstein for the stage by the live-use of light and sound. The performers sit in a half circle between dummies and lamps with a light-bulb behind their head which enables them to switch themselves on and off individually. There are no theater-spotlights illuminating the stage from above, no use of playback-music from CD, but the light is controlled on stage as arrangement of lamps and light-projections created by Noah Fischer, while sound and music is performed live by Sascha Sulimma. Even the text is generated on the spot, based on a fragmentary structure created by Alexander Karschnia and Nicola Nord. Revolutionary Timing is an energetic performance between action and discourse. Here time becomes space: reflections on failed revolutions or the anticipation of the beginnings of one. This performance exists in the narrow gap between a pop-song and the philosophical discourse.