Previous Exhibits: Five Years Of Obscurity


In the early 90's a gentleman named N. Senada, a musician, philosopher and guru, passed through Chicago. His influence on the three founders of The MVM was immeasurable.

First of all, it was he who introduced us to one another, and set us on the path of collaboration we have trod for almost 15 years.

Second, his Theory of Obscurity, which had lead to one of The Residents' best albums, Not Available, was an ideal fit with the philosophic directions in which we were going. An abounding interest with the ideas of impermanence and being free of the self drove our individual practices. Creating sound works and art works that functioned the way butter sculpture or sand mandalas did, as a focus on the act not the product of passion, was a uniting desire.

Senada's "Theory of Obscurity", which states that artists produce pure art only when the expectations and influences of the outside world are eliminated, influenced us to embark on The MVM's longest term project to date. Beginning on January 1, 1995, we began to destroy every copy of every work we had created to date. Over the next five years we struggled to eliminate any archives or deposits of our selves. Anything concrete that might point to our certain existence. We wanted to step outside history and into memory alone. Of course, we knew this was impossible.

Accompanying this dissolution, we vowed to destroy every work we made the moment it was completed. As soon as a composition was "finished", that is, as soon as it felt completed, we deleted or destroyed it; and all the materials or files, or instruments used to create it. Whoever completed it, whoever was around when it was completed, they were the only ones to ever hear the work.

The point of this was to teach ourselves not to be attached to the final product, to the reception of the work. But rather to revel only in the act of creation, to be egoless in the creation of work. Be it true or not, the goal was to learn how to remove the conscious mind from the process of creation and freely become a vessel for what resides inside the flesh and spirit. In this, Senada alone was not our guide. We were also heavily influenced by the ideas of Suzuki, Cage and musical minimalists like Riley and Young. We also hoped to introduce the spiritual practice of improvisation into our compositional works.

In 2000 we created the composition Elegy. This was the first work we had ever made that actually exposed to the outside world the sounds we hear in our own heads. It was our first real expression of what our experience of life is like, what our subjectivity sounds like. With its completion we knew that we had completed our exercise of create and destroy, and that we did not need to practice obscurity for obscurity's sake anymore.

Though honestly, we had lost interest in sharing our work on any sort of broad scale by then. Over the next four years we slowly emerged from our earlier practice. What works we did keep after completion were often packaged in single editions and given away. And the materials and original files discarded. Archiving simply seemed to take up space.

Some works were released in small editions of three and given away. Others were created in editions of seven and sent anonymously to the people who had inspired them. Many were simply erased upon completion. In this way, composition became a form of private performance, perhaps. In no cases did we keep the original files or personal copies. The archive we now have here on Vime we put together over the past few years, collecting mp3s from folks who own our works. A great deal of the work we do not have access to, and do not need access to.

In 2004, Lee decided to enroll in graduate school, feeling his musical work had shifted far enough into the realm of art and performance that an advanced degree and the opportunities it might open up would benefit him. We discussed this change in our shared practice for a long time, as neither Randolph nor Duke has any desire to produce larger editions or better circulated works than before. Lee's works, as exemplified in Disembody, for instance require space and financing that can rarely be had without the involvement of others, without financing and reputation. Lee's obscurity would need to be jettisoned.

To that end, we've created this site. We've put up a great deal of material we never expected to share. Some of The MVM will continue down an obscure path, while other parts of The MVM attempt to garner attention. We do not know what this third phase in our existence will bring.

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