Cleveland: Chris Kulcsar- an Artist Who Uses Sound

“In my work I mash up seemingly separate multimedia elements with the intent of creating a body of work that implies a post-historical fabrication of coherence. This poses a problem as I am offered a dizzying array of outside sources to pull from.”
from Chris Kulcsar’s artist statement at www.chriskulcsar.com

Most of Chris Kulcsar’s life he’s made art and played music, but in just the last few years he’s made the leap to combining these two activities. While attending graduate school (MFA University of Cincinnati), and with “the prodding of instructors and colleagues” Chris was made to realize that skills gained from his band life– recording, organizing events, performing– could be applied to his artistic practice.

An early work that demonstrates the beginnings of his merging of *band life* with *art life* is Kulcsar’s Display Case Performance (2008) an eight hour performance in which he, Alex Bayer, Jason Butler and Aaron Walker all locked themselves into a narrow glass front display case, along with drums, electric guitar, amplifiers, microphone and supplies. A recording of Display Case Performance, with film still, can be found in the 2008 portfolio on the artist’s website.

Kulcsar created an installation at Spaces, Cleveland, a non-profit alternative gallery space, on exhibit December 2010-through January 2011. The installation contained all of the artist’s elements, including multiple cassette tape players and a selection of cassette tapes that attendees could freely interact with by selecting cassette tapes, inserting them into a player and pressing play, thereby altering the sound within the installation.

Older technology, such as cassette tapes and players, as a medium, interest Kulcsar who explains that– “digital doesn’t distort well, but with analog the imperfections, hisses, pops, & distortions are all built into the process”.

Chris Kulcsar is also interested in technology as a cultural marker, he commented– “During the course of my installation at Spaces, I watched as patrons in their early 20’s struggled with the cassettes and the players. This was something I hadn’t anticipated and I’m still processing its deeper ramifications”.

Perhaps Chris Kulcsar is striving for and accomplishing much in both simultaneously creating and erasing sound associations for a space. Kulcsar explains that his choice to work within a physical environment rather than an exclusively digital one, such as in Second Life, has to do with not wanting to divorce sound and space, that “when we describe sounds we often include the space in which the sound originates – ie-the hissing of a radiator, the rustling of leaves, or the crashing of waves. That is to say, all sounds have a source & to rob them of a context, to limit them to speakers and headphones seems disingenuous”.

In another early work, Ain’t no grave gonna hold my panda down, Kulcsar employs the older sound technology of vinyl record and record player. In the video performance of Ain’t no grave gonna hold my panda down we see Kulcsar dancing while wearing a panda suit and singing along with the vintage vinyl record recording, complete with crackles and pops, of the ancient 1890 country blues tune ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down, behind him a painting containing a large white space filled with contour drawings of human figures, all in another “mash-up of seemingly separate multimedia elements”.

The artist describes this work as follows: “The panda project dealt with issues of identity and how people put on roles and attitudes. The basic idea is that panda’s don’t exist and they are actually people wearing panda suits. In ancient times the modern equivalent of stoners got together and created the panda idea/costume as a way to get away with being lazy. The have existed, almost as a cult, ever since. The project entailed drawings, videos, and performances. I abandoned the project in the summer of 2008 because I felt that pandas had become overly saturated in pop culture via the Beijing olympics and some kids cartoon. In the video in question that particular panda has found evangelical christianity and he’s giving it a test drive.”

The elements of interaction and environmental sound control also appear on the artist’s website where I found his written instructions: “To interact with the tapes open all 3 in different windows and play and pause to make your own mix”. I tried it with headphones, and indeed the experience of visiting the artist’s website opened up in new ways as I took over some control of my immediate world of sound by clicking the players on and off as the artist directed.

You can try it here, as well, by clicking *play* on all three videos above so that they play simultaneously, their sounds overlapping.