Canadian artist Paul Walde once composed a requiem for a melting glacier in British Columbia—and then invited a small chamber orchestra to perform to that glacier. Another time, he made art pieces using mushroom spores, and invited musicians to perform along to those paintings, each interpreting them in their own unique way.
“He’s thinking, ‘How can we collaborate and create music with life forms other than human beings?’” says experimental musician Gabriel Saloman Mindel, who is working with local organization Indexical to create the yearlong exhibit Landscape and Life at the Tannery Arts Center. Walde is one of the artists contributing to the exhibit, which seeks to explore our relationship to the physical landscape in a totally new way.
“One of the problems with landscape painting is that it often depicts the world as a thing in the distance. It’s beautiful to look at, but doesn’t always capture the way that life, in all its different forms, is there,” Mindel says. “Rather than looking at it from a distance, [these artists] were getting right into it and treating the landscape as a living place.”
This exhibit also begins a new era of Indexical, an organization that formed in Brooklyn in 2011, then relocated to Santa Cruz in 2015, and is dedicated to experimentation in music. They’ve hosted music and art events in several local spaces, such as Peace United Church of Christ, Veterans Memorial Building, Kuumbwa Jazz, and Radius Gallery at the Tannery Arts Center. Now they have a dedicated location, after recently signing a year lease at the Tannery. In addition to Landscape and Life, they hope to host 40-50 more events.
“The Tannery offers them an opportunity to be more proactive about hosting events, and a wider array of events, because it’s a lot of work to start setting up a venue for each individual show,” Mindel says.
Initially, Mindell, who is an independent curator with Indexical, wanted to assemble a project that would explore how the various experimental musicians he knew were mixing visual arts into their work. After selecting the four artists—Walde, Suzy Poling, Paige Emery and Raven Chacon—he saw a theme emerge. They were each interacting with the physical world in unique ways and commenting on a lot of the issues we currently face in society.
“What I saw was a really important way of rethinking how we relate to landscape, because it affects the ways that we relate to not just the living creatures, but also our relationship to First Nation and Native American folks and their existence in this landscape. And the way we think about climate change. All those things are interconnected,” Mindel says.
It’s not clear yet what Walde has planned specifically for Landscape and Life, because his submission won’t be up until next year. But Poling, who likes to visit strange landscapes for her work, is set to go. For this exhibit, she visited Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras. The rock formations, known as tufa, seem strangely alien and alive. She took photos of the rock, often including herself in the photos in costumes that mimic the texture of the weird geological formations. She has videos, photos, and music she has composed to accompany the visuals.
“I think that the music is meant to almost be the voice of that landscape, as if the landscape itself is speaking,” Mindel says.
Members of Indexical are hoping that this will mark a whole new era of bringing art to the city, and sparking conversations. In addition to the exhibit, they plan to host a whole speaker series this coming year.
“The way we view a world without humans as “empty space” is a reflection of our political and theological frameworks, says Indexical Executive Director Andrew Smith. “This speaker series is about ensuring that the broader argument of the exhibition series connects, and drawing some specific and practical examples that extend beyond the artwork. Currently, we expect to have six talks throughout the season, and I hope they’ll truly be community conversations.”
The first exhibits of Landscape and Life, by Suzy Poling and Paige Emery, continue through Nov. 13. A closing reception for both will feature performances by the artists and a Q&A on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 8pm at Indexical, 1050 River St. #119, Santa Cruz, (831) 621-6226.Tickets for the closing reception are $18, available at indexical.org.