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Who's Watching Now? 

Electronic music, video, and voyeurism cross paths in the Center for Contemporary Art's Surveyed.

Malcolm, immersed in his environment.
  • Malcolm, immersed in his environment.

If it's not one intrusion, it's another: Cameras follow you in the drugstore and peruse you at the ATM. Strangers eavesdrop on your cell-phone conversations; your boss monitors your e-mail. Your activities, however mundane, are recorded and stored away for some unspecified future use.

Then there are the voyeurs who use hidden cameras to peer up women's skirts and invade store dressing rooms. You have to contend with them, too. Or are you, perhaps, one of them?

Such is the theme of Surveyed, a July 27 performance at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.

Electronic music artist Greg Malcolm (who performs as Twine) and video artist Ric Hudgins (Phase4) are creating what they call an "immersive environment" filled with audiovisual artifacts of our voyeur-mad culture.

As fiercely as people defend their privacy, they still like to see what others are up to, observes Malcolm. "Everyone is so interested in what other people are doing."

The audience at Surveyed will get a chance to be a collective peeping tom. The event, part of the center's Final Fridays café series, will include images of people who may not have been aware they were caught on video. "Some of the footage has been taken directly from security cameras I gained access to," says Hudgins.

The images will be projected on the walls of the center's café space to a soundtrack of Malcolm's experimental music. The idea is to envelop audience members in images and sounds that force them to confront the way surveillance permeates the modern world while also letting them participate in the voyeuristic experience.

Both the music and video components of the show are improvised. "What you're seeing is reflective of how we can vibe off each other," says Hudgins. "I would liken it to jazz improvisation -- every performance is unique in its own way."

This is the first time Malcolm and Hudgins have worked around a theme, although they've been performing together since December in more traditional concert spaces and at raves and gallery openings.

Before meeting Hudgins, Malcolm had been frustrated that his performances lacked visual impact. "I'm usually behind a monitor," says Malcolm, who creates his dark, multilayered soundscapes with a computer. "It's not too much to watch."

He tried projecting film clips on a screen behind him, but it wasn't until he started attending the now-defunct "Recline" electronic music events at the Rhythm Room, where Hudgins was resident VJ, that he realized the potential of live video manipulation.

No mere light show, Hudgins's projections exist somewhere between computerized psychedelia and Soviet-style montage, characterized by quick, rhythmic cuts. For his on-the-spot editing, "I take two [video samples] and mix them together at that moment in time to create a, hopefully, unique and different work," explains Hudgins. "Very much how a DJ does."

Surveyed is another in a line of community art performances at the Center for Contemporary Art. "The bare walls and balcony of our café largely go underutilized," says John Chaich, the center's public programs director and organizer of the Final Fridays café. Malcolm and Hudgins "are making the most of a space by filling it with sound and vision."

Performing in an art center has special significance for the pair, who consider themselves part of two worlds -- the electronic scene and the art scene.

A separation exists in Cleveland between those interested in experimental electronic music and the contemporary art crowd, says Malcolm. "I think many people [in the electronic scene] are jaded when it comes to more highbrow art. There seems like there's a definite disconnect between people our age and those a little bit older, in their 30s and 40s."

In other communities, there's a closer relationship between electronic musicians and visual artists. In New York and Europe, artists have been putting on events similar to Surveyed for years, Hudgins says. As close as Columbus, the Wexner Center for the Arts has booked electronic artists for shows and mixed-media art installations.

"I think it's going to present something new to both audiences," Malcolm says of the Friday night show.

"And hopefully create a bridge between them," adds Hudgins.

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More by Lawrence Daniel Caswell

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