‘Ben Vida: Slipping Control’ at Audio Visual Arts

Installation view. (Courtesy Audio Visual Arts)

Installation view. (Courtesy Audio Visual Arts)

Composer and artist Ben Vida began by writing a “score” consisting of a concrete/Dada-style series of letters and syllables. He then printed the score as a poster, and as a book, videotaped himself, Tyondai Braxton and Sara Magenheimer improvising with the meaningless but still recognizably English-based vocals to a click track, processed the voices, overlaid electronic music, added cheery interstitial screens of pure computer color, and built a very pretty kind of abstract spectrograph on a white shelf using irregularly overlapping 12-inch squares of colored plastic. On the one hand, this kind of score is as open as a Rorschach blot: Mr. Braxton scats, Ms. Magenheimer croons and Mr. Vida recites. Mr. Braxton’s voice, through the music, continues to sound like a voice and Ms. Magenheimer’s does so intermittently, but Mr. Vida’s becomes an electronic jaw harp sound twanging in time to the jumpy, stop-motion strangulation of his mouth. If you weren’t told it was still his voice, you might not guess. On the other hand, is this really any more variation than you’d find among performances of a Bach prelude, with its ostensibly far more rigorous instructions? Pretext, decision, information, identity: which is which? Mr. Vida suggests we agree to disagree. (Through May 19, 2013)

‘Ben Vida: Slipping Control’ at Audio Visual Arts