Michal Oppenheim & Daniel Landau
Distractions from a Present
Michal Oppenheim and Daniel Landau are both multi-disciplinary artists whose foundations are musical. Chance would have it that the two are also a couple in real life, but despite this fact they have never created an opportunity to meet on the same stage as practitioners. To me, this seemed almost an invitation to prompt such a meeting.
Michal Oppenheim, a voice artist active as composer and performer in various constellations, is not a stranger to our past protagonists on the program. She is indeed active within and without the Israeli experimental scene, and has taken part in many past institutions mentioned by former guests on the broadcast. Daniel Landau, stemming from classical composition, has made a shift in his adult career towards a proper multi-disciplinary approach combining music, space, visual arts, IT and science, to mention but a select assortment one can find in his current practice.
For their first collaboration, and indeed our broadcast, Oppenheim and Landau decided to revisit recorded materials collected throughout their lives, as a couple and as individuals. With these recordings Oppenheim and Landau take our listeners through a guided improvisation that we soon attempt to deconstruct. For Landau, the revisiting of archive materials immediately prompts a context beyond the acoustic sphere. Here we are confronted with questions regarding the use of an ever-growing array archive materials at large, and specifically materials with an ingrained subjective quality to them. Landau is confident enough to “allow materials to simply be” without the need to shape them. The artistic conversation that ensues during Oppenheim’s and his improvisation, in itself, is sufficient to raise questions. Oppenheim takes the aesthetic notion into deeper consideration in claiming that this sort of material prompts a visualisation, but one that can only truly stem from the ears. Within both these approaches we are already confronted with experimental trademarks, which beckon a deeper analysis.
Landau suggests that experimentation is “a piece that is curious, and pieces must be curious!” His personal past already includes a shift that marks innate experimental tendencies: Although a trained classical guitarist and composer, his main discovery was of himself as a “director” of sound. As Landau became more proficient in electro acoustics, he found a path that could aid him in the creation of the art he was looking for. This art seemed to engulf much more than his childhood discipline of pure music. Oppenheim takes a more holistic stance whilst reaching similar conclusions. For her, exploration of voice through the prism of text invites experimentation, whether the focus is inwardly or outwardly directed. Using the voice in its social context, explains Oppenheim, is always an act of experimentation, as it entails a flirtation with an unknown.
Both Oppenheim and Landau seem to agree that this period in historical time seems like a pinnacle of self-expression, which arguably began at the Renaissance. For Landau, this peak of individualism as practiced in the west, lends itself towards immaturity, and aids an ever growing search for “finding your own voice.” Yet his hope is that with age comes wisdom, and that artists slowly realize their social task: “this requires a transcendence through the personal, and an attempt to give your public energy rather than take from them – even if you are telling the most personal or subjective story.” A notion that Oppenheim picks up in saying: “Beethoven had the leisure to deal with pure aesthetics – but we haven’t got that leisure anymore.” To her, by reshaping archive materials of their personal lives into a piece, Landau and she are actually helping listeners dissect the intimacy of their own homes, and potentially shift their perspectives towards it in some way.
Although following dissimilar paths in their artistic endeavours, Oppenheim and Landau meet in their understanding of contemporary art. For Landau, art today is about reflexivity – the ability, if not necessity to present an alternative. For Oppenheim, in an age where the “shock” reserved for modernist art can be found in news footage, art becomes more about healing and the reinforcement of notions of community. Oppenheim presents a strong case when pointing towards current-day experimental practices, and notes how “friendly” they have suddenly become with other practices and genres. This, of course, in stark contrast to modernist experimental trends that primarily sought to negate.
Life affirming and beautiful ideas, no doubt, yet, I had to admit to Oppenheim and Landau that the same notions seem to obscure the potency of great art. If art is of and for a community, if it attempts to heal, or prompt reflection, how does one know whether they have created something of timeless value, rather than a local service to a community? Oppenheim trusts her gut feeling: “if it’s entirely new, and I myself like it 100% and have the urge to share it, then it must be “the” thing. Landau takes a more reflexive approach: “Looking for answers is the definition of the destruction of experimentation! The search for answers is a cerebral activity that distances us from the “now”, and throws us into a state of past or future. It is a distraction from a state of present, a state that is, by definition, an experimental state.”
Ophir Ilzetzki goes into a detailed cultural analysis of Akeda (sacrifice), the highly political oratorio written between 1981 and 1982 and only premiered last year (!), portraying a narrative of the Israeli history by Israel’s foremost composer, Arie Shpira.
Costa-Rican composer Federico Reuben (*1978) in interview with Ophir Ilzetzki. Together they take-apart Reuben’s large ensemble piece Esferica Cantandote