Music of change

On Thursday I received a surprise invitation from Muriel Quancard, founder of OPUS and Quancard Contemporary Art to a very special film screening at Residency Unlimited (RU).  The film was called Music for (prepared) bicycles (after John Cage & Marcel Duchamp) / Part One : Bombay by German French artist Caecilia Tripp.  In collaboration with Clark House Initiative Bombay, the film was made as a tribute to John Cage while taking his 1952 composition 4'33" as a departure point to explore different ideas of musicianship, audience and sound.  Simultaneously, the film also paid tribute to Marcel Duchamp and to one of his first readymade pieces- Bicycle Wheel.

Music for (prepared) bicycles (after John Cage & Marcel Duchamp) / Part One : Bombay
Image courtesy Caecilia Tripp

For the performance of the three-movement composition- 4'33", the score instructed the performer to not play his or her instrument.  Cage's idea was to mainly to direct the audience's attention to the sound that surrounded them.  The otherwise and often-times easily neglected ambient sound thus became the focus of the piece.  With this intention and gesture, 4'33" became a participatory piece of which the relationship between the musician and his or her audience became a mutual effort.  In other words, the piece relied equally on both the player and the audience in order to form and realize its whole existence. Inspired by this notion of a shared experience, artist Caecilia Tripp took the music to the streets of Bombay.  For this piece, she re-appropriated the bicycle wheel with electric guitar strings and a piece of playing card.  As the bicycle moved through the streets, the strings hit against the card and gave birth to a sonic street bicycle.  The mesmerizing film at times focused on the bicycle rider as the camera followed his meditative mental state and physical movements through the streets of Bombay.  As the journey took off into the busy streets of the city, the film showcased the various street noises and the colorful local culture.  Although the finished form looked to be more of a film as I watched it being projected at the RU space that evening, however the process was a collective effort that included the street pedestrians, the city's lively daily activities, the bicycle rider and of course the filmmaker and her crew.

Music for (prepared) bicycles (after John Cage & Marcel Duchamp) / Part One : Bombay
Image courtesy Caecilia Tripp

When Duchamp mounted the bicycle wheel to a wooden stool in his studio, his intention was purely aesthetic at first.  While he enjoyed watching the spinning of the bicycle wheel, it was only later that he began to think of the piece as a readymade. The idea of a readymade as an object of art depended very much on the context and its spectators.  When Duchamp combined two very mundanely every-day objects - a wooden stool and a bicycle wheel then placed them an the context of an art exhibition or a museum, the two objects were no longer viewed as every-day objects but something that were depleted of their original functionality and thus took on a different meaning to the viewers.  Taking this idea of readymade and its close relationship to the context of the work and how its surroundings support its meaning, Caecilia Tripp's film also brought a new meaning to a simple every-day activity of riding a bicycle through the streets.  The act of riding a bicycle in public has been a utilitarian necessity of many different countries, by no means anything special or exclusively reserved to any social class.  However, when one rode a sonic bicycle with guitar stringed wheels that conjured up musical notes, it became a street performance.  This performance united people and brought smiles to their faces, as the film followed some local children smiling and dancing to the tones.  It also helped made friends with curious bystanders, as some tried to figure out how the sound was made while others tried to suggest ways of improving its sound in motion.  And thus the music of change was the street music that called out for the people's power to unite and make changes for a better future. 

Music for (prepared) bicycles (after John Cage & Marcel Duchamp) / Part One : Bombay
Image courtesy Caecilia Tripp

What I found most beautiful of this film was its ability to bring together different ideas internationally.  That, it was a piece first inspired by works done by Cage and Duchamp but in the end became a more colorful piece pulsing with the vivid imaginations and the lives of the local people in Bombay.  When talking to Caecilia Tripp about her work, she said that to her the project was also very much based on this idea of how collective imaginations could help weave a fabric of dream that had no boundaries. As the bicycle faded off to the distance while its tone still lingered on, this film indeed captured my dreams and took me to another land filled with magical moments. 

Caecilia Tripp has received several international grants representing a body of film and video installations, performance and photographic works, which has been shown internationally in galleries, museums such as PS1/MOMA New York / USA, Palais de Tokyo Paris /France, Jeu de Paume Paris / France, Museum of Modern Art, Paris / France, Zacheta Gallery Warsaw / Poland, De Appel, Amsterdam / Netherlands, Roomade, Brussels / Belgium, Museum of Modern Art, Moscow / Russia, Center Of Contemporary Arts, New Orleans / USA, MuBE, Sao Paulo / Brazil, Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn New York / USA, Dakar Biennale, 7th Gwangju Biennale 2008, Gwangju / South Korea, Clark House Initiative, Mumbai/India and in international Film Festivals.

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