Think Kraftwerk on a smaller scale. Each turn of the crank trips sensors that cause the computers to speed up the sound or slow down the video.
This mixture of digital and analog—complex computer systems and chain driven bicycle—is important to Atmospheric Diver because it preserves the past while incorporating the new. “Analog is raw and real, whereas computers take the physicality of sound away,” Spencer Neale, one half of Atmospheric Driver, says.
Neale and his cohort Jordan Glazer, who met at the College of Santa Fe where both are enrolled as film students, have been putting together the installation since January.
In addition to the visual works, they created a soundtrack to accompany the visual aspect, as well as a 14-track cassette tape album that is being released in a limited edition of 100 copies by Albuquerque cassette-tape label Featherspines.
For both the installation and the album, Atmospheric Diver uses a mixture of computers, synthesizers and analog tape. The digital mediums are chosen for their versatility and the analog ones because of the crispness of sound they produce. They also complement the video aspect, which is a combination of digital imagery, visual noise and analog broadcast.
Rather than making a traditional film and soundtrack, Atmospheric Diver wants to create an abstract emotional experience viewers can take with them. Atmospheric Diver does this without focusing its efforts completely on either the visual or auditory aspects of film.
“You can go out there and visually and aesthetically be beautiful, but if you don’t have sound you’re completely taken out of the experience,” Neale says.
But it’s more than just an integration of art forms. The avant-garde, experimental cinema and art Atmospheric Diver creates has a voice in underground scenes around the world and a very strong one in Santa Fe.
Neale says, “This is what’s going on here and now in Santa Fe and I want to be a part of it. I came out here with the idea that I really like Wes Anderson and I wanted to make movies. But once I got out here and met [CSF and NoiseFold’s] David [Stout] I didn’t know if I wanted to make movies anymore.”
Instead, what Neale and Glazer want is to affect their audience and open up a dialog. Both artists express concern over the popular forms of art they grew up with and are reacting against them in a very primal manner.
To get into its audience’s heads, Atmospheric Diver takes what it has learned from watching and listening to bands and performance artists—Godspeed You Black Emperor, Boris, locals The Late Severa Wires and NoiseFold— to create its own version of visual and auditory noise.
“People say that noise isn’t relevant, that people who make noise are making bullshit, they’re not. It’s a physical experience,” Neale says. “It’s like primal scream therapy. It’s energy. And fuck music or art. It’s about feeling something and being completely submerged in the moment and experiencing it.”
The metaphorical musical sculptures work in much the same way as the chanted mantras and mandalas of many Asian religious traditions. The images and sounds are unfamiliar and somewhat illogical. The mind, finding that it cannot deconstruct the ideas intellectually, refocuses and an organic and pure experience is left.
While Metropolis 3 hangs in a gallery on the college’s campus, Atmospheric Diver brings the installation to life with a performance at the High Mayhem Festival that includes live music made on computers, synthesizers and delay pedals as well as simultaneous live cinema manipulation.
When asked why, in this isolated city in the middle of the desert, known more for Georgia O’Keeffe than ground-breaking experimentation, there is so much acceptance of peculiar forms of art, Neale points to the sky.
“It’s boundless. People come here to get away from the rest of the world,” he says.
Like New Mexico itself, Neale and Glazer’s show pushes boundaries and allows its viewers an escape from the world into a place where art dominates the conversation.
Friday, Sept. 5
Through Sept. 26
Saturday, Sept. 20