Curation + Project
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York
The title Parallel Remix I have chosen for this exhibition at the Leonard Hutton Galleries in New York reflects my interest in the many worlds theory proposed by Hugh Everett III in 1957. This has been explained by the physicist Bryce DeWitt in the following terms:
'This universe is constantly splitting into a stupendous number of branches, all resulting from the measurement like interactions between its myriad of components. Moreover, every quantum transition taking place on every star, in every galaxy, in every remote corner of the universe is splitting our local world on earth into myriads of copies of itself … here is schizophrenia with a vengeance.'
My interest in Everett's theory has gone hand in hand with my reading about the work of DJs who remix and re-edit the music of others. I have been much struck by what Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton have said about the difference between remixing and re-editing:
'Strictly speaking, these tapes were re-edits and not remixes. A re-edit is a new version made by cutting up and splicing together chunks of the original song in a different order, usually using a tape recorder, a razor blade and some sticky tape. A remix is a more involved process where the original multi-track recording of the song is used to build a new version from its component parts. If you think of re–editing as making a patchwork version, then remixing is where you actually separate the individual sonic fibres of a song – separate the bass track from the drum track from the vocal track – and weave them back into a new piece of musical fabric.'
When selecting the artists to include in the exhibition, I was concerned to choose individuals whom I knew to have an understanding of art history, in the sense that, like DJs with their vast libraries of tunes and sounds, they had the capacity and interest to look back and draw from the past.
The Leonard Hutton Galleries have a well established reputation for showing twentieth century German and Russian art. When Ingrid Hutton approached me about the exhibition, I immediately thought about how I could use works in the gallery's collection as the starting point for the project. I knew that Russian Constructivist artists such as Malevich, Soutine and Chashnik drew inspiration from contemporary developments in science; and also, like their German Expressionist peers, were also much interested in mysticism. The resonance between scientific exploration and the realm of the mystic is, interestingly, reflected in a letter written by Hugh Everett in 1973:
'I was of course struck, as many before and also many since, by the apparent paradox raised by the unique role assumed by the measurement process in quantum mechanics as it was conventionally espoused. It seemed to me unnatural that there should be a 'magic' process in which something quite drastic occurred (collapse of the wave function), while in all other times systems were assumed to obey perfectly natural continuous laws.'
In the world of music, Brewster and Broughton have described the DJ as 'the latest incarnation of an ancient role', namely that of the shaman. They write of 'pagan high priests who directed their people by dance to the spirit world and drank drug–filled reindeer piss in order to see god', and of 'forms of worship … centred around music and dance, their rituals usually focused on some special person who links heaven and earth.'
In conceiving this exhibition, I was keen to tap into both the intellectual and the primitive, and to explore how the artistic process draws on both. The role of the artist, like that of the shaman or the DJ or the quantum physicist, is to invoke the forces of 'magic' to instil in those who see their work a more profound understanding of the mechanics of the world and the universe in which we live.
I would like to thank Jonathan More of Coldcut for his advice about DJs and the history of remixing, and Mayo Faulkner for introducing me to The Many Worlds theory of Hugh Everett III.
Peter Byrne. The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life. Headline, 1999.