Beatrice Gibson: A Necessary Music screening and Will Holder: An Evening with Robert Ashley

29 January 2009

The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH

A Necessary Music is a project by artist Beatrice Gibson, developed in collaboration with composer Alex Waterman. Narration by Robert Ashley.

It is a science fiction film about modernist social housing. A musically conceived piece, referencing the video operas of composer Robert Ashley, the film explores the social imaginary of a utopian landscape through directed attention to the voices that inhabit it.

Roosevelt Island is situated between Manhattan and Queens. Formally known as Welfare Island and originally home to New York’s largest insane asylum, and a range of other 19th century municipal facilities for incarceration, it now houses one of the cities most visible, yet little-known modernist social housing projects designed by Philip Johnson.

A Necessary Music employs the islands residents as its authors and actors. Gathering together texts written by them to construct its script and casting 17 residents to enact these lines, the film is accompanied by a fictional narration take from Adolfo Bioy Casares’ 1941 science fiction novel ‘The invention of Morel’. Gradually dissolving from attempted realism to imagined narrative, what begins as a process concerned with sociality becomes instead an ethnographic fiction about place and community, and an investigation into representation itself.

The screening of A Necessary Music will be followed by An Evening with Robert Ashley, a talk by Will Holder on biography, polyphony and oral representation in the work of composer Robert Ashley.

The production of A Necessary Music was supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Arts Council of England.


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