vinyl heart: cold chillin’ with Lyota Yagi

17Aug13

Last week my friend Miyuki and I visited the 2013 Dojima River Biennale — being held at the Dojima River Forum — so we could listen to ice records.  The Biennale is a masterclass in curatorial intelligence: centered around the theme of ‘water,’ the exhibit showcases a huge variety of highly-pleasing work.  I’m sure that no one who enjoys contemporary art will be able to leave this exhibit without finding something to love, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Forum building is quiet, air conditioned, and full of images of watery coolness — a soothing tonic for Osaka’s blistering summer heat.

One of my favorite pieces at the exhibit was an installation by Lyota Yagi (八木良太) that featured a vintage portable record player set up to play records made out of ice.  The piece — the somewhat ironically named Vinyl — is ‘performed’ several times a day.  At regularly scheduled intervals a trained staff member opens the refrigerator that the record player sits on, pulls out a fresh slab of ice, puts it on the player while people crowd around in anticipation, and drops the needle.  In case you can’t be there for the live performance, there’s a video loop playing on a large screen to the right of the player so you don’t have to feel like you’ve missed out.

What song is inscribed so lovingly in the deep ice grooves of Yagi’s conceptual cold cut?  Why, it’s Audrey Hepburn singing “Moon River,” of course.

The records are made by pouring water into silicon molds that themselves seem to have been formed using an original vinyl copy of “Moon River” as a sort of master record.  Unfortunately, the particular pressing that was brought out to be played while we were there turned out to be defective.  Though the person who peeled the silicon mold from the ice record was clearly incredibly careful, an ice chip at the edge of the record made it impossible to play without skipping.  After several attempts were made it was clear that no amount of tinkering was going to get the record to play all the way through, and this particular performance was abandoned.  Still, it was interesting to get a close look at the silicon mold and the record itself.  Equally surprising was the quality of the sound.  You’d think a copy of a copy of what is already a copy of a copy of a copy (I think I got that right) would have deteriorated to the point where any discussion at all of ‘sound quality’ would be merely academic.  And yet, even through the two-stage transition of turning vinyl into ice, the tune still manages to hold its charm.



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