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"Jason Kahn, las estrategias de una actitud"

Artecontextexto (english version)
Josť Manuel Costa

spanish version

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The "desire for style" is an idea which has long been left behind, after its onto on to the architectural post-modern scene, but it refuses to die, even, in the context of new intermedia practices. This happens because most artists tend to maintain, for long periods of times, the mechanisms of creation with which they feel comfortable, which allow them to reliably formulate the issues they examine, which are also maintained for long periods of time.

However, this is not always the case. Two exceptions are the American band which emerged in post-punk Los Angeles, Destroy All Monsters, or the Californian conceptual John Baldessari & Co. It is made up of Steve Roden and Jason Kahn. The former is a visual artist by training, better known in Europe as a sound artist who has released dozens of CDs. His music is original enough to have given rise to a new concept: lower case music. But they are very different kinds of music.

Jason Kahn is basically a percussionist (he describes himself as a drummer) who arrived in the art world when he realised, in Europe, that speakers made it possible to work with sound as an object. This, combined with a view of space as an essential element in his sound works, drew him to the art world. Kahn has released, in quick succession, four albums based on entirely different premises. One of them is purely electronic, defined by a set wave (Beautiful Ghost Wave, Herbal International CD), another is a percussion performance at the old New York studio of Nam June Paik (For Nam June Paik Absence of Wax, free download), another is a composition for a free improvisation group (Dotolim, Balloon & Needle CD) and the last one is made up of a sonic view of the Delhi landscape, as it has never been heard before (Unheard Delhi, free download).

The process is not everything, but it does impose a context. For example, in Beautiful Ghost Wave, Jason Kahn takes from his recording collection a wave which seems as ghostly as it is beautiful, and applies to it all sorts of digital- analogue processes to direct it toward a place where beauty is rough. However, For Nam June Paik is a performance in the strictest sense of the word, where what is produced is both the experience of the moment and a music which can then be distributed in a reproducible way. That two-fold role is also displayed in Minamo. But here it is not Kahn himself, with his computer or drums, but a group of Korean performers who are asked to produce a composition following set patterns within which they can be completely free. This could be understood as a stochastic act of mathematically limited randomness, but in fact it has more to do with intuition, with the establishment of communication forms which allow freedom, taking others into account, and self-regulation, in order to achieve a specific purpose.

Again, the latest work, Unheard Delhi, has nothing do, either formally or processually, with the previous works. It is a sonic landscape of the Indian capital created according to the proposals received by Kahn from its inhabitants. In this way, we hear a muezzin, the sound of a faucet, demonstrations, a park, etc. Sounds which mean something to those who live there and which help us think about the way people listen in other places, and the way we ourselves listen.

Can we speak about style? It doesn't seem so. However, it is not difficult to accept these works as something created by Jason Kahn, a single author, however surprising this may be for someone who does not know his earlier work. We replace a style defined by forms, materials and concepts, with an attitude toward things. Something, it seems, which is much more important.