The contemporary artist Deborah Aschheim and musician Lisa Mezzacappa energize the PMCA
Project Room with an inspired collaboration of complex and fragile site-specific installations incorporating both sight and sound.
Earworms is a collection of musical experiments and sound sculptures, born out of the artists interest in the actual neurobiology of thought and a shared fascination with verbal, visual and acoustical memory. The project began as an experiment to cure aphasia, a loss of ability to speak or understand spoken or written language as a result of disease or injury to the brain (there is a history of Alzheimers disease in Aschheims family). Aschheim was intrigued by some neurologists belief that music and language are encoded in different pathways in the brain, and by the accounts of stroke patients who can no longer speak, but are still able to sing song lyrics. Taken from the German word Ohrwurm, a term for a portion of a song that becomes stuck in a person's head, the title refers to how both music and memories become encoded into our brains and are recalled in mysterious ways and at inappropriate times.
Mezzacappa enlisted the participation of over a dozen Bay Area musicians, who have written and recorded songs around some of Aschheims favorite words. The resulting works, in genres ranging from opera to reggae to indie pop to death metal, are linked by a focus on language and memory. The lyrics reference specific events in Aschheims life. Aschheim then constructed sound-sculptures to play the songs, building on her earlier body of work, which resembled neural networks or webs. The sculptures, made of cannibalized stereo equipment, plastic tubing, LEDs, video and laboratory funnels coated with gallons of transparent polymer, recall visually mutating slide trombones, phototropic plants, the bodys digestive system and glowing spider webs. Once the sculptures are installed in the space, Mezzacappa will sculpt the sound, digitally remixing the songs to design both intimate and ambient sonic experiences for the viewer and giving bodies to the songs. Each elaborate construction plays one specific musical composition over and over, until it burns a path into memory.
Deborah Aschheim has exhibited at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville; the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, CA; Consolidated Works Art Space in Seattle; and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. Since 1997, she has exhibited immersive sculptural environments that make connections between architecture, biology and public space throughout the United States and in Europe. She is the recipient of fellowships from City of Los Angeles, the New Jersey State Council for the Arts and the Pasadena Arts Commission.
Lisa Mezzacappa's has performed and workshopped with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Meredith Monk, Bob Moses, Myra Melford, Art Baron, Terry Riley and David Murray, among others, at countless Bay Area venues including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and SFMOMA, San Francisco; as well as the Earshot Jazz Festival, Seattle; and the Montreal Jazz Festival; Canada. She was artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts (2006) and the Banff International Jazz Workshop (2000), holds an MA in ethnomusicology from UC Berkeley (2003), and a BA in music from the University of Virginia (1997). She is composer-in-residence at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in fall 2008. Lisa has been awarded grants from American Composers Forum, the City of Oakland and Meet the Composer.