The result of a collaboration between visual artist James Richards and composer Billy Bultheel, Workers in Song brings together new music, archival film and text. The performance is haunted by histories of occult photography and spectral music, as well as more quotidian pleasures such as internet hook ups, drugs, fanship and Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise”.
Conceived to be episodic in structure, the compositions can be reworked, videos added or replaced, and new musicians invited into the ensemble as it travels. In its first iteration, set in Batalha’s historic cinema space, Workers in Song takes the form of a chamber music concert for flute, piano and voice with digital video projection, 16mm film and multichannel electronic sound. The elements are expanded and further developed by the musicians in real time, with live melodies roving through the space encountering a number of pre-recorded cameos; screenings of underground films by Wendy Apple, Warren Sonbert and Tony Conrad and re-stagings of text and performance work by Rae Armantrout and Ian White.
Taking apart the seamless and unified apparatus of the cinema, film programme or chamber concert, Workers In Song inhabits Batalha's main auditorium, turning it into a musical Frankenstein. Songs and images come flickering and humming into life, performers shift in front and behind the audience, weaving an array of cover versions, interruptions, distortions and homages. Workers in Song questions the boundaries between liveness and the pre-recorded, between presence and absence, between ghosts and the archive in a dynamic and intimate encounter between the audience, musicians and the moving image.
Directed by James Richards and Billy Bultheel, and performed by Alexey Kokhanov (voice) and Adam Sinclaire (flute), with filmed appearances by Sebastian de la Cour (voice) and Sara Neidorf (drums).
Co-commissioned by WIELS Centre for Contemporary Art, Batalha Centro de Cinema, Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean and KW Institute for Contemporary Art.
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