Ben Seretan (Brooklyn, NY)
Every Dawn Jubilation Blues (Dedicated to the Memory of Etta Baker)
June 2018. Performance series video documentation. 5 min 57 secs. Electric guitar, keyboard, microphone.

For Every Dawn, Seretan addressed each morning of his residency with an hour of public improvised singing and guitar performances from Elsewhere’s storefront theater, starting before the sun rose and ending after the street lamps turned off.

Despite rarely encountering visible audiences in the artist’s three weeks of residency, the performances were a daily act of civic engagement and a reminder of the living museum’s 24-hour presence in the south end of town.

Drawing inspiration on the Piedmont Blues style and the musical world of North Carolina, the musical performances examine the two-finger style endemic to the region and found in the music of Etta Baker: a guitarist from Caldwell County. Audio from interviews with Baker can be heard in the video documentation of the performances.

“But in that stubborn dedication to greeting each transition from night to day an important act of orientation was performed— celestial positioning, noticing the sun’s slight change in timing and location each morning, and an acknowledgment that Elsewhere continues to have a presence long after the museum is closed and residents have retired to bed.”
— Ben Seretan


Project In Response To: Signalling Hello (Greensboro), Sunrise Over Xanadu, Energy is Always Conserved, Never Created or Destroyed, Super Piano Bouncy Ball.

 


 

Tarot cards depressing organ keys to play a chord. Photo Credit: Ben Seretan.

The See Major Arcana
June 2018. Performance documentation. Museum collection photo prints on paper, toy box, electric organ, performance series. Dimensions variable.

“A common trick among certain keyboard musicians is to slip a piece of wallet ephemera— library card, movie stub, even a $5 bill— between the keys of their instrument to hold down a chord. Bits of anonymous, unimportant paper and plastic are suddenly thrust into a role in making music. These neglected objects are in fact playing the music.”
— Ben Seretan

The See Major Arcana is a musical, interactive game that transforms museum collection photographs into a tarot deck that allows audiences to “hear” their fortune on the museum’s Yamaha electric organ through the aforementioned musical technique. Participants draw a stack of cards from a deck of 22, insert them into the keys of the museum’s Yamaha electric organ, and gain insight from their responses, harmonies, and revealed mysteries.

Major Arcana prompts audiences to play music and find magic within forgotten objects by celebrating the future, present, and past— the amateur photos of the unidentified photographer are from a trip to Florida over 30 years ago.


Project In Response To: Confessatorium, Doorbells

 

Performance documentation. Series of sound recordings. 25 min 52 secs.

Above: Seretan performs on front stage; makes tarot card deck; the museum collection electric organ; visitors draw cards with corresponding chords. Image Credit: Amelia Nura, Imani Thomas, Ben Seretan.