For thousands of years human beings have sought out shamans, witch doctors, priestesses and other holy men and women in search of cathartic connections with the divine. In hopes of finding that infinite, for even just a moment, the Amazonians took ayahuasca, the Indians soma and the beatniks LSD.
But none of this is necessary; for art can lead the mind down the path of understanding if a viewer allows himself to swallow the pill. For with NoiseFold, I have found my urban shaman, my Don Bastardoses, my gurus.
One doesn’t truly see a NoiseFold performance unless he can open his eyes, ears and spirit for a full, integrated experience. By harnessing the chaos of algorithms Cory Metcalf and David Stout make a visual and aural soup in which their audience swims, at times almost drowning from the sensory overload. Color and tone dance through the air as time loses all meaning. Each movement reaches its chaotic crescendo, just as the audience member has lost himself completely, and is suddenly reborn with a delicacy that pulls the viewer gently back into himself. Whether seen simply as a work of art or encountered as an intellectual and spiritual event, the loss of self that occurs during a NoiseFold performance is balanced by a gain of understanding.
Seeing these visual koans twice this fall, I’ve still not come up with my answer, but I’ve reached into the deep recesses of my intellect and discovered the peace that comes with meditation. This, however, doesn’t mean that NoiseFold is an easy thing to take in. There’s no sitting back and relaxing; instead one must focus the ears on sounds that range from symphonic to droney to abrasive and noisy. But the rewards are worth the work, as those sounds, coupled with computer generated moving paintings, flow, fighting with one another for control. It’s nearly impossible to take it all in because it’s so big but whether seen from the back of a large movie theater or from the front row, nearly swallowed by enormous screens, what comes through shakes the spirit.
Formerly based in Santa Fe, NoiseFold has experienced a geographic rift due to the near closure of the college with which both Metcalf and Stout were associated. But a little distance hasn’t stopped the two, who reunited at their former institution, The College of Santa Fe (full disclosure: I am an adjunct faculty member at CSF), for a welcome back weekend and at Stout’s new school, the University of North Texas. Though both performances incorporated the same basic visual and auditory structures, there was no feeling of a repeat performance. At CSF, NoiseFold took over the school’s movie theater, projecting their images side-by-side on a screen meant for indie flicks and revivals, while the Texas show was staged in a small, square room in which the screens, set into a corner at an angle.
In each performance the screens faced-off, battling one another in a dance of light and shape. Slowly, the work takes over its audience, and what is truly an hour worth of art becomes a flash of inspiration in its viewers minds. The hallucination Metcalf and Stout create in their performance spaces becomes a synesthesiatic experience where the tongue tastes the colors and each musical note smells like the lingering scent of a match on the fingertips.
It sounds like an over exaggeration to say that one can feel god through a work of art, but an experience of complete connection with the other, where there no longer is an other, is simply the immersion into the work itself.