An Interview with 18/19 Season Artists Marginal Consort Mar 14, 2019
by Kiera O'Brien
An Interview with Marginal Consort, by 18/19 Curatorial Intern Ellen McGivern
Tables adorned with machinery flank four corners filled with metal salad bowls, a bubbling mason jar of water, a collection of coins, and sea shells. A paper cone, plastic pipe, and wooden sticks of varying sizes and arrangement are scattered on the floor. A flute begins to flutter. A cord is strummed; a cry yelled out. Vibrations pervade the enclosed space engulfing those who walk and those who lay or sit. Which corner are you gravitated to? Which noise speaks to you? Here begins the experience that is Marginal Consort.
Conceptualized in conversation with fluxism and noise art, Japanese sound collective Marginal Consort entrance audiences by fusing amplifying technology with organic material and performative gestures during their improvinizational performances. Performing only once during the calendar year, the four person group, performed to a sold-out audience on January 25th at On the Boards. Collective member, Kazu Imai and Keiko, Kazu’s partner and the groups translator, generously sat down with me to discuss the collectives process. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
You travel all over the world and perform in various countries and spaces. How does American culture affect your creative process and synergy as a collective?
America is where we feel welcomed and supported. There are a lot of aspects of American culture that I relate to or feel comfortable with.
You have developed homemade instruments for your use. What is your thought process when choosing an instrument while performing?
Each member chooses the sound they want to project both for themselves and for the audience. Disruption and projection is part of the experience. Each member does their own personal practice (outside of Marginal Consort). I do my solo projects and collaborations and play guitar.
The role of technology in contemporary art making is in constant conversation. With marginal consort, you blend mechanics with the organic by using water and other materials to creates sound. How has the advancement of technology changed the ways in which you perform?
The quality of the natural world and resources can never be replaced. Technology can amplify the purity of the sound but does not replace the natural phenomena of sound. I sometimes use effects of pedals to shift sound or create depth to the performance. That’s when I amplify organic sources and when I want to change the sound I use the effects.
In your performances, the collective performs separately from one another on stage. How does separation create collectivity in Marginal Consort?
The reason why everyone is separated is to avoid influence for and of each other. Due to your separation there is a special energy that comes from speakers or other sources.
What is the role of silence in your work?
I am not sure if I’m intentionally making silence but when I am resting I have trust in my collective to continue the performance. I am more focused on my personal silence then the group.
About Marginal Consort
Marginal Consort is a Japanese collective improvisation group founded by members of East Bionic Symphonia, an outfit assembled from students of Fluxus artist Takehisa Kosugi’s class at the radical Bigaku School of Aesthetics in Tokyo in the ‘70s. Current participants are Kazuo Imai, engineer Kei Shii, artist and Gap member Masami Tada, and musician Tomonao Koshikawa. Their records together have been released by P.S.F. and PAN.
About Ellen McGivern
Ellen McGivern is drawn to work focused on process, research, ritual, vulnerability, and accessibility. Growing up in Kansas, McGivern became fascinated with the Prairie Print Makers, a collective founded pre-World War II that examined her home state with an emphasis in working with community and self-promotion; similar values that are embedded in her curatorial practice. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Kansas and will graduate with an MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University this June. Beginning in marketing and communications at the fine craft gallery, 108|Contemporary, Ellen has progressed her career towards curation, residency management, art criticism and artist professional development through opportunities at the Hedreen Gallery, the contemporary performance space, On the Boards, and as a resident in The Black Embodiments Studio, an arts writing incubator and lecture series in collaboration with The Jacob Lawrence Gallery and the University of Washington.