Hermes’ Ear

HEyeRMEarS is a nickname used by artist Josef Cseres to document experimental and improvised music. Cseres, who lectures in Slovakia and Czech Republic, is interested in archiving artists who touch on the discursive and nondiscursive modes of expression. One such presentation was the improvisational violin works of Jon Rose, Violin Factory and Double Indemnity. I had the chance to listen in on some of the tracks from Rose’s album which Josef is archiving during the artist talk held at Post Museum on 19th August 2010. 

Documentation of R.I.T.E.S. #7 performance at The Substation, Singapore. 2010. Courtesy of Jason Lee.

In this talk, Josef shared that his appearance in Singapore was purely accidental. Having made plans to swing by Southeast Asia, he contacted Lee Wen, a Singaporean performance artist whom he had met in an international conference. At that time Lee Wenwas involved with an emerging new platform for experimental and improvisational musicians called Rooted In The Ephemeral Speak (R.I.T.E.S). It was a match waiting to happen, and Josef was invited to perform at the next R.I.T.E.S presentation.

Josef performed with a suitcase and a typewriter which were nostalgic elements rarely seen in today’s times. In this performance, he went on the mundane and monotonous task of typing words. He also integrated spoken word into the performance via a speaker that was drumming out muffled recordings of an unknown person reading letters of the alphabet which Josef proceeded to type out. He asked the audience to read from books he had laid out on chairs in the performance space at The Substation Theatre. The audience members read these books aloud and Josef kept typing. When they were done, Josef ended the performance with a lighted tea candle placed next to these typewritten sheets laid out on the floor. But this was not the end of the show — Josef retreated to the back of the wall where there was a board and using some chalks he wrote, “Terrorists destroy buildings. Tourists destroy places. Artists destroy both.” Josef was not done. He used a rubber stamp with the words ‘The Lazy Anarchists’ and stamped them on the papers he’s laid out near the tea candles in a public display of criticism against how young artists do not lay claim to anarchism as a critical response to the status quo anymore. Josef, who confessed to being a university lecturer weary of the institutionalized way of teaching art, was sending a non-verbal message about the monotonous and droning style of academia, education and learning in today’s contemporary times.

Documentation of R.I.T.E.S. #7 performance at The Substation, Singapore. 2010. Courtesy of Jason Lee.

In his artist talk, Josef admits that academic discourse does not satisfy him. He finds the arguments and discussions to be contradictory between those who practice art and others who interpret art. He went searching for alternative ways of expressing himself by dabbling into installation works in the past. When asked to explain the reference to the Greek god Hermes, Josef shared that it was a topic for his thesis which was devoted to mythology. He connected with Hermes, known as an ancient God who takes care of all travelers and thieves, as he was an unconventional God known to deconstruct the norm.  The other known phenomenon about Hermes was the winged shoes he wore to travel between the mortal and immortal world. It was Hermes who had influenced the use of ‘hermeneutics’ in language which translates to the study of interpretation. Cseres’ deeper desire to look for different interpretations of music and art is not a new finding amongst artists whose visions are far more stretched and far-sighted. There was little show of works from the museum aside from Jon Rose’s albums but a book documenting some images of violins were passed around to the audience as a sample of what the museum does.

Rooted In The Ephemeral Speak (R.I.T.E.S) is an artists-initiative organized as a platform for new ideas and artists in sonic art, time-based and performance art-related practices.