Theme + Variations on Field Notes is a collaboration between artist Austen Camille and composer Evan Kassof. While Camille walks the city of Philadelphia, from the lowest point below sea level in Franklin D. Roosevelt Park to the highest point on Summit Road in Chestnut Hill, Kassof monitors her elevation and pace from the studio, and performs the information through a custom-built software instrument designed by music technologist Andrew Litts. The viewer is able to listen and simultaneously visually experience the walk through Kassof’s screen, as he gathers data into the software instrument. The movement through the city is arduous and ordinary; as aches and memories are accumulated, the translated tones of Camille’s body climbing through the city accumulate upon one another. Along the way, Camille and Kassof perform field note observations; the series of questions and answers lend a poetic cadence which generates the music and folds subjective descriptions of the city into the score.
Rather than aligning themselves with time as a linear second/minute/hour format as it defines capitalistic structures, Camille and Kassof instead use their bodies and resonant sounds to tie time to something very physical: one person’s body and the geology of the place it lives in. This process allows the viewer to experience the city of Philadelphia as a slowly expanding soundscape. Experience becomes relayed through memory and conversation; it accumulates over the course of the walk even as it fragments and becomes difficult to recall.
Neither artist is from Philadelphia. To engage with a place by walking thus becomes a slow, intimate method of learning how to belong to it. Theme + Variations on Field Notes quietly explores the gradual and determined process of forming a relationship.
Thank you to LinoKinoTV and Automat Gallery in Philadelphia PA for curating the exhibition that has made this work possible.