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Interview: Bruce Russell + Marco Fusinato

Interview: Bruce Russell + Marco Fusinato

Thursday 23rd June, 2016 11:22AM

This weekend will see Bruce Russell (The Dead C, A Handful Of Dust) colluding with Australian contemporary artist Marco Fusinato to bring audiences their ominous sounding show, Terminal Guitar. With the first performance scheduled to take place at Auckland's Audio Foundation on Friday night before the pair head on to Wellington and then Christchurch, Sam Longmore of the foundation dropped a line to the two men to learn more...

Hello Bruce, Marco, I am pretty damn excited about this show, and indeed, this interview. To start with, could you please explain how some features of your approach to the guitar challenge expectations around such a loaded instrument?

M: Well, firstly, I play through an ever-changing myriad of electronics- mostly distortion. The signal is so overloaded that it has the same effect as turning on a water-hose full blast and spiralling out of control. I then try to take it into further unexpected directions.

B: For me, it’s all carpentry – guitars are amplified bits of wood. It’s important to have good pickups, and beyond that, aesthetics are also significant (the instrument must refer to some relevant archetypes).

M: There’s always an expectation around how how the guitar is meant to be played. I learnt early on that I didn’t have the technical ability to play it that way. The realisation that I could do the opposite of everything in all the ‘How To Play In The Style Of (insert famous guitarists name here)’ books was a revelation. It was important ‘How NOT To Play In The Style Of…’ and to invent your own language through a philosophical approach not only to the instrument but also to its associated electronics such as pedals and amplification. All these materials have implications and are signifiers that demonstrate the sub-cultural position and attitude of the performer.

B: I will hit the guitar in ways that I would never hit people. And, by extension, I will use a guitar in ways I will not use people. People are ends in themselves, guitars are instruments. I am very conscious of the idea of performing with a guitar, that's why I do it; with the guitar you can play with stereotypes and assumptions, just as much as you can play with an instrument. I have always modelled myself on Jimi Hendrix - who wouldn't?

M: The guitar is capital’s entertainment tool. It sells all types of commodities and lifestyles. My approach is to defy those expectations, to possibly confound the audience. Non-entertainment entertainment.

B: Standing next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand...

You are playing a series of shows together. Could you perhaps map out a little of the ground you share, and also where your approaches differ?

B: We are both interested in making noise. We both work with the idea of the guitar as a performative signifier, hoping to extend our understanding of the idea of performance. In doing so, [Marco] fetishises expensive gear and pure volume, while I fetishise shitty gear and timbre of sound.

You are both known also for your work beyond ‘musical’, guitar-driven performance. Could you please share a little of how your performed practice relates to that which takes place in other spheres, under different umbrellas?

B: I'd question your assertion that I am known for musical performance. Actually, I reject it completely. I work with sound in various ways, including with recorded sound. I also think about my practice and its social role. That's the basis of my doctoral work. I think its about changing the consciousness of social groups.

M: I’ve had a long term interest in noise as music. On one hand, I’m drawn to its purity, and on the other, its ability to contaminate, and various ways, it permeates most of my projects.

In gallery contexts, some of my works relate to noise metaphorically, and some more literally. There are some works for galleries that use harsh noise at extreme volume. For example Aetheric Plexus takes the equipment associated with the contemporary spectacle (stage rigging, lighting and speakers), usually there to highlight the performer but in this case turns it directly on the audience, in a blast of 30,000+ watts of white light and 105+ decibels of white noise. This is an unequivocal, overwhelming action. It assaults the audience--simultaneously crushing them into the corner of the gallery space and making them the spectacular object.

Another example of this is a work called Constellations exhibited recently in Singapore. I asked the gallery to build a 40m long (floor to ceiling) wall that diagonally bisected the large rectangular space. Upon entering the gallery you are faced with only the large expanse of white wall and nothing else. Making the long walk around to the other side of the wall the only visible object in the large space is a baseball bat attached to the end of a long steel chain coming out from the centre of the diagonal wall. The audience is invited to strike the wall with the bat. What the audience doesn’t realise is that inside that cavity is a very large PA system with 15 microphones studded across the inside of the wall. Their action is amplified at 120db, creating a huge reverberate impact that resonates through the entire building.

Do you have any comments further to the above?

B: Rock 'n roll I gave you all the best years of my life, all the dreamy summer Sundays, all the crazy moonlit nights.

Terminal Guitar: Bruce Russell and Marco Fusinato

Friday 24th June, Audio Foundation, Auckland
Saturday 25th June, City Gallery, Wellington
Sunday 26th June, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch

Tickets to the Auckland show available HERE at UTR, and in store at Flying Out on Pitt Street


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