Heart as Arena–Québec installment


Heart as Arena created by Dana Gingras/Animals of Distinction, goes to the Centennial Theatre in Sherbrooke and La Rotonde/Centre Méduse in Québec City, April 23 and April 25-27, 2013. I’m the transmission artist/composer for the piece, so I travel with it too to wrangle les ondes radio turbulents.


Setting up the ring of suspended radios for the April 23, 2013 show at the Centennial Theatre, Lennoxville/Sherbrooke, Québec. Photo by dancer and costume designer Sarah Doucet.

Isn’t it too hot for self-promotion?

Probably. So listen to this while wearing a nice cold shirt straight from the fridge (do not listen to electronic gadgets in the cold bath):

Measure the time taken— three pieces (2 new ones, and 1 older one I made with Eric Leonardson) created as part of my ongoing exploration about the perception and standardization of time through time keeping and recording, and radio. They explore the continuous, irregular present, suspended and stretched through habit and drift, and measured against the Futurist dream of time overcome. Published in issue 22 of No More Potlucks, a bilingual online and print on demand journal of politics, art and culture.

photo: Tom Blanchard

For those of you in Winnipeg, you can mosey on down to Plug-In Institute of Contemporary Art and catch Road Movie, installed until August 19, 2012. It’s a wonderful piece, conceived and directed by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky aka Public Studio. My contribution was the film soundtrack and the sound installation design.

As for new work, I’m currently researching and experimenting with more time-related pieces under the working titles “One minute from now” and  “Zero Hour”, as well as slowly compiling an album’s worth of material to make available in the winter, and doing some writing about transmission art. Lots of travel coming up in the next year: Tsonami festival in Valparaiso Chile (Nov 2012), another short residency at ORF Kunstradio, Vienna (Dec 2012), performing in Evalyn Parry’s SPIN in Vancouver (April 2013), Heart as Arena on tour in Québec (end of April 2013), and a residency courtesy of Radio CONA in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Nov-Dec 2013).


Heart As Arena in Ottawa and Montreal

We’re remounting Heart As Arena, a new dance work by Dana Gingras/Animals of Distinction, with radio installation and sound composition/design by yours truly.

May 10, 11, 12, 2012 at the NAC Studio at Canada’s National Art Centre in Ottawa

and May 29, 30, 31, 2012 at Agora de la danse, as part of the Festival TransAmériques in Montreal

Heart as Arena is a multimedia work for five performers, explores ideas of receptivity, transmission and the secret language of electricity that animates heart, mind and muscle.

Low-watt radio transmitters broadcast a fragile stream of love songs, snatches of static, and the deep silence of space.  A constellation of radios hovers above the dancers, creating a living array of sound. The transmissions create a physical soundscape that is constantly acted on and disrupted by the slipping frequencies and electrical fields created by the dancers’ moving bodies. Bellini’s Norma, the canonical opera of desire, love and loss, acts as the emotional centre of the piece, emerging and disappearing throughout the piece like a distant station heard on late night radio.

This choreography explores the heart as an arena of electrical and emotional force fields; the attraction and repulsion of bodies in motion; physically demanding expressions of need and want; the electrical interplay at the base of our emotions; the firing and silencing of the very neurons that create our experiences of falling in or out of love.

The work features performers Sarah Doucet (Toronto), Shay Kuebler (Vancouver), Amber Funk Barton (Vancouver), Masaharu Imazu (Montreal/Japan) and Dana Gingras (Vancouver/Montreal). Creative collaborators include sound artist Anna Friz (Chicago), lighting artist Mikko Hynninen (Finland), dramaturge Ruth Little (England), with additional dramaturgy by Daniel Canty (Montreal).

Road Movie goes to the Berlinale

all photos: Tom Blanchard, 2011

Road Movie, a multi-screen multi-channel film installation about the segregated road system in the West Bank, created and directed by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky aka Public Studio, is opening next week at the Berlinale Film Festival. I composed the sound/music and designed the sound installation for the piece, which has some flexibility to adapt to each new space in which we show the work.

Road Movie is at the Gutschow-haus, Friedrichstraße 17, Berlin from 9. – 19. February, 2012, 11-20h daily.

Vernissage on 9. February at 17h.

Road Movie was also voted best Toronto art show of 2011 by NOW Magazine!

Road Movie

© Tom Blanchard 2011, Road Movie installation at O’Born Contemporary @ 51 Wolseley

I’ve been working like mad composing and designing the sound for Road Movie, a new multi-film installation by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky, aka Public Studio, which opens today in Toronto as part of the official selection for the Toronto International Film Festival. Three large double-sided screens show 12 short films about the segregated road system in the West Bank, to the accompanying soundscape which I’ve composed from field recordings, and my odd little stack of instruments, including some nice little mbira beats and harmonica drones. Near the door a small mobile of horn loudspeakers emits the various perspectives of Palestinians and Jewish settlers with whom Elle and Tamira drove the different roads. Watch the trailer here.

Public Studio explains what it’s all about:

In 2009, we went to live in Palestine for a year in order to get a better understanding of the situation on the ground. Flanders, who was raised in Jerusalem, felt that in order to really connect with people and daily life, she needed to live inside Palestine, not just visit. Sawatzky had become interested in the architectural aspects of life under Occupation and together they decided to make a film that looked from the inside out. While much work exists about all aspects of this particular conflict, we approached this from another dimension– we take you, the viewer, into the landscape, into the land in meticulous detail, and allow you to move around in an installation, to give you an immersive and contemplative experience. We shot our films in stop-motion animation, a technique that allowed us to capture, frame by frame, the minutia of this often over-exposed place. Like surveyors, we track the land step by step, taking you with us into each frame.

The piece is produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and O’born Contemporary Gallery, Toronto. Those of you in Toronto can experience it for yourselves at 51 Wolseley Street, 5th floor (across the street from Theatre Passe-Maraille, near Bathurst and Queen W), September 8-18, 2011. Hours: Sun-Thurs, 12-6PM, Fri-Sat, 12-9PM.

© Tom Blanchard 2011, Road Movie installation at O’Born Contemporary @ 51 Wolseley

Going out west with a suitcase full of tapes…

photo: Gavin Young, Calgary Herald

I’m currently in ice cold Calgary with the rest of the 300 Tapes gang for the double premiere of 300 Tapes at Alberta Theatre Projects’ playRites Festival. We run from Feb 17-March 6, 2011. In case you’re wondering, there really are 300 tapes in this show. My sound design is predictably all on tape too… and I brought some nice Califone decks to play them back on (thank you Florida public school board).

Here’s what it’s all about:

“Imagine recording your memories on 300 analog tapes. Record. Rewind. Play. Listen. Stop. This intimate mash-up of fact and fiction explores how our memories and identity are shaped (and warped) by time, our own ideas of ourselves and the eyes and ears of others. Featuring a ground-breaking sound design and the curious choreography of our everyday twitches, this bold experiment in storytelling playfully provokes questions about authenticity.”

Developed in residency at The Theatre Centre, Toronto, and co-produced by Public Recordings, with The Theatre Centre and Alberta Theatre Projects.

300 TAPES Dec 1-12, 2010, The Theatre Centre, Toronto

After two years of research residency at the Theatre Centre with Toronto-based performance company Public Recordings, our new show is finally on the stage:


I’ve designed the sound mostly from tape detritus, and predictably, I’m playing the score for this show entirely from cassette, with some electronic effects (and a few Califones cassette players thrown in for good measure). For tickets and more info, check out the Theatre Centre’s page.

300 Tapes will travel to Calgary for the Alberta Theatre Projects’ playRites Festival in February 2011, and from there to points beyond.

A nice little review by Kevin Hegge of NOW magazine can be found here.

Coming soon…. 300 Tapes!

News from the dissertation cave….


Radio listening continues, even when the chips are down and the doctoral dissertation must be finished. This little baby doesn’t actually receive any nearby stations, but the white noise is sublime.

Lots of good news for future projects, however:

I have received generous post-doctoral funding from the Fonds de recherche de la société et la culture (FQRSC) in Québec which will allow me to spend two years in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute. I’ll be moving stateside in April 2011 to get that rolling, and look forward to hanging out with the distinguished sound geeks there, including my long-time collaborator Eric Leonardson.

Meanwhile, the winter will be dominated by writing, editing, and production on a couple of great projects:

I’m working on a new commission called “For the time being” for Äänen Lumo Festival for New Sounds, taking place in Helsinki November 8-14, 2010. I have been especially invited NOT to attend the festival, but to work with five excellent sound students from the Theatre Academy Helsinki to create a new work for Finnish public radio, as well as craft a score for the intrepid agents to perform at the festival in a darkened cinema. They’re out there with their microphones at the ready, even as I write! Looking forward to working with the material they send me.

300 Tapes will premiere at the Theatre Centre in December 1-12, 2010 here in Toronto, and then head to the 25th playRites Festival at in Calgary in February 2011. It’s a Public Recordings show directed by Ame Henderson, and developed over the past two years in a company residency at the Theatre Centre in Toronto. I’ve been a co-creator of the work, as well as composing, sound designing, and will be doing live sound for the shows. Yes, there really are 300 tapes in the show, as promised.

Fresh from a rip-roaring run at the Minneapolis Fringe, Evalyn Parry’s bike show SPIN will also get its first full-length run at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre here in Toronto in March 2011.  I’m doing sound design and performing live in that one too (it’s the one show where I get to SING as well as twiddle knobs!)

And now, I need to get back to my nice little static, as it were.

Team Boombox

susie_radiosphoto by Omer Yukeseker

I’m doing some transmission and tech work for a wonderful show by Toronto dancer extraordinaire Susie BurpeeA Mass Becomes You

It’s a solo piece, inspired by Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #122 (1983), featuring Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor and a host of boomboxes.  Susie is an amazing performer with such intensity and a laughing-to-keep-from-crying Beckett-like sensibility that really drives this absurd and beautiful work. 

My job involves some composing, a lot of boombox wrangling, and keeping all the little radios working as they should. Designing Mozart-meets-radioworld has caused some weird musical organisms to occupy my inner ear– like a choral reef, you might say. 

For those of you in Southern Ontario, the show happens at the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival at the River Run Centre in Guelph on Friday June 4 at 8PM, and at the Canada Dance Festival at the  National Arts Centre in Ottawa on June 9 at 4PM.