For a long while now, outsider artist Charlemagne Palestine has been producing a variety of works that lay claim to a deep sense of spirituality, and Ssinggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg grows that sense further into a psychedelic land of noise and harmony. Associated with the New York minimalists of the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, Palestine’s ouvre nevertheless resists the association by being less about music and more about ritual, by envisioning the ‘creative act’ as much more than the sentimental recollection of an experiment in form. It is the kind of creative act that seems inherently dangerous, not only because it is geared towards the unknown but also because it is meant to obliterate what it deems false: it is the mystic’s elevation, the skyward free-fall of the dreamer that dares to live and finds the truth in both nothing and everything. Palestine’s drones build up, they begin with something simple and then grow and grow until they’ve occupied your entire mindspace, clearing out any and all impurities within the system to replace them with the truth of a hundred voices in collage, in collision. By surrounding himself and the spaces he plays in with the fantasy of unity that a child’s mind probably understands with precise clarity, Palestine animates the world once more, not through chemical or musical processes but an overwhelming fusion of what is in principle completely, utterly disparate.
This is the function of the stuffed animals that he carries around everywhere, and with which he has created various installations throughout galleries around several countries. Described in interviews as “divinities”, these little creatures and their mad color compositions tie Palestine to a way of making art that cannot be reduced to either the visual or the musical. While he’s much better known as a musician, it would seem that to set aside his visual art is a mistake, perhaps because his rejection of minimalism and his emphasis on the word ‘continuum’ attempts to un-draw a very thick line that divides art from life, that seemingly lessens art to a type of activity that fundamentally serves sentimentality. The toys are integral to the music and its performance, reflecting one another as the pathway to something higher, an everyday convergence of dual-natured things: on one extreme sacred, on the other wasteful, pop-cultural trash. Like the pianos they adorn, these animals come to represent a myriad ways of expression, and in the ritual that the artist enacts they become one, a single, totemic fantasy that allows some in the audience to drone with them, to join in the fragmented chants and noisy build-up of what at first seemed a few notes. As with the mystic’s fiery discourse, those who are not entranced, those who do not see and hear the veil of the divine will see and hear lunacy instead, a collection of waste, an unintelligible mess made out of something so beautifully simple as a series of unaltered piano tones. The stuffed animals come to life not by themselves, not really, but as extension of the imagination, as the propagation of life as it thrives off meaning – the ritual is not the quiet, private working of a magic spell, but the loud, dissonant call to commune.
The noisy drone ends with a sudden silence and the sharp tone of glass being rubbed, the final release of an ecstasy that knows no bounds, followed by a cartoon-voice chant that brings listeners back to themselves, now inevitably changed. Like a cartoon, the album closes with the squeaky voice saying “bye-bye!”, humorously finishing the ritual off in a manner that once again trails two paths. It is ridiculous, but depending on one’s side of the mystic’s fence that ridiculousness either leads to a laughter of joy and understanding or a laughter of disapproval and disbelief. It is no wonder Palestine’s usually excluded (by himself, no less) from the minimalist constellation: his work is inherently aggressive in its passion, it aims to push and erase and unite where he sees the work of others as being merely musical. In other terms, it could be said that it’s Pop Art without the glamor and the cool of irony: it flourishes from the weirdness of a culture of waste that sets up all these animated idols only to see them forgotten, a childish daydream that in tacky wonders finds the truth. (David Murrieta)
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