ing at Machine Project, Los Angeles
"The Origins of the Rainbow, Green"
by Patrick Marcoux, whitehot magazine of contemporary art, Los Angeles
You can't help but smile at a song that touches deep at the root of your humanity; a song whose whose chorus encourages:
"Don't be nervous, don't be whiny / Just be thankful, there's a donut in the kitchen."
ing is the Los Angeles-based musical performance duo John Wood and Max Markowitz (www.ingismaxandjohn.com). They're producing monthly installments of a project whose stated goal is to reveal the origins of the colors of the rainbow through an original creation myth. In January, at the Machine Project gallery, they performed the color green. Using words and ideas from audience submissions, as an improv troupe does, ing improvised percussive and lyrical accompaniment to pre-arranged electronic samples on a laptop--sweet, simple, melodies reminiscient of winding the crank on a jack-in-the-box toy. ing is something like a band, peforming equal parts music, vaudevillian flabbergast, and enthusiasm.
Yes, the "e" word. Admitedly, Los Angeles art has a history of promoting vacuous works with the rhetoric of enthusiasm. While the lyrics and music in ing's Origins of the Rainbow project operate with improvisation, that isn't the content of the work. ing is not abstract expressionism--at least not as this ideology functions in a painting, where the abstract marks can be read as the form; and the content is the thing that escapes figuration: the artist's emotion, thought, being. Instead, ing focused on the audience at Machine Project--with rules, prizes, and participation from the audience designed to draw the room together. When Max Markowitz took a break from playing instruments, during one song, to jog in place in front of the audience, it wasn't in a sublime Robert Wilson kind of way. It was closer to Will Ferrel.
The songs at Machine Project Gallery seemed the simplest of vamps, with the most inconsequential lyrics, but as soon as ing pointed to the audience, everyone found themselves wholeheartedly singing along to "blissful positive rollercoaster" (with choruses directed to be sung by "just the girls", " now just the guys"). In the closing number, ing set their keyboard music to loop, both artists left their stage, and each in turn gave every single person in the audience a hug. Everyone in the gallery looked helplessly suffused with good and innocent feelings. Now that's how you close a show.
The fantasy and comedy elements of the Origins of the Rainbow might seem a little out of step with an art context that includes geopolitics. And though lyrics like "oh the lemurs they met penguins / and then it started raining worms" might sound like the children's song genre, ing doesn't retreat into infantilism. If you pay attention to the context you live in, you get the bad news in geopolitics every day. But in a heavilly compartmentalized world, maybe an ing performance is like taking your vitamins, or doing yoga. I walked in with an average stress level and walked out with a smile on my face. It was the best news I'd heard all week.
There will be four more installments of the Origins of the Rainbow at Machine Project, with a concluding "rainbow-making workshop, in which the separate colors are conjoined." Do yourself a favor: take your vitamins.