Recycled sound: Invisible gets beat up

An Invisible performance, Greensboro, NC, 2008.
Invisible performance, Greensboro, NC, 2008.

A dinged-up, mustard-colored dryer. A salmon-red electric typewriter. Black and red vinyl LPs. A portable TV. You might expect to find such things at a secondhand store– or the dump– but probably not assembled at Second Street Gallery, where the musical group Invisible gives new meaning to “garage band” with its installation, “Rhythm 1001.”

At May’s First Friday opening, Mark Dixon, the green t-shirted impresario behind the plugged-in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink collection, slouched in a straight-back chair and talked about his background in sculpture as well as avant-garde composer John Cage’s influence on his approach to music. His collaborators, Bart Trotman and Jonathan Henderson, sat in identical chairs on either side of him, listening and nodding.

After explaining he finds meaning in “an instrument of tasks turning into an instrument of music,” Dixon and Trotman stood up, turned their chairs around, and began playing the seat slats with small mallets. Hidden beneath the seemingly mundane chairs, organ-like pipes provided resonance. Meanwhile, Henderson jammed on a bass-like instrument incorporating trashcan lids.

The trio eventually shifted to the hodgepodge of wires, keyboards, vises, monitors, cylinders, and unlikely percussive items (think service bells, think TV antennae, think plastic picnic cups) arranged on the east side of the gallery.

Trotman sat down at the “Selectric Piano,” a Dixon invention that enables typewriter keys to play notes on a partially deconstructed piano. As Trotman tapped out sardonic reflections on the state of the world, a tiny video camera affixed to the carriage projected the words in real time onto the wall, flashing insights like “If someone’s fashion offends you, doesn’t that make you a fashionist?” or the hilarious, “No typoes. No typos. No typos.”

Nearby, Dixon, looking like a mad scientist in safety goggles, manned a large metal wheel drilled with concentric circles of tiny holes, in which he arranged and re-arranged hundreds of bamboo pegs (made from barbecue skewers). As the wheel turned, the pegs triggered instruments made from plywood, bright blue electrical tape, screws, and repurposed junk to beat out orchestrated rhythms, all powered by salvaged hard drive motors.

Henderson, for his part, played mostly straightforward bass guitar and keyboards, but he initiated and responded deftly to the ever-changing loops of layered sound. By the end of the performance, the three musician-artists stood triangulated in the middle of the visually dizzying installation, building beats to a frenetic, crowd-grooving climax.

A must-see, Invisible is out of sight!

Invisible will perform at Second Street Gallery May 8 at 5pm, May 29 at 4pm, and May 30 at 4pm. (An additional concert date is also in the works.) The installation, "Rhythm 1001," is on view through May 30. 115 Second St. SE. 977-7284.

1 comment

OMG (oh my god!) mark dixon just HAPPENS To be my step dad! (sort of) HE IS THE BEST (SORT OF) STEPDAD I COULD EVER WISH FOR!!!!!! i am stunned he could do this (i wish i could have been at every concert they were in ever! (unfortunately i cant because im a theatrical person and are in school and lots of public plays!)

-skye ,your (sort of) stepdaughter