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Sea Tails: A Video Collaboration
at the Getty Center July 13–September 26, 2004

June 8, 2004

Los Angeles—The genius of American musical pioneer David Tudor (1926–1996) is celebrated in the exceptional sight and sound presentation Sea Tails: A Video Collaboration, at the Getty Center, July 13–September 26, 2004. The exhibition, on view in the Getty Research Institute Exhibition Gallery, reconstructs Tudor's 1983 installation of Sea Tails, a video collaboration with filmmaker Molly Davies and French artist Jackie Matisse.

 A unique exploration of music and performance, Sea Tails integrates audio and visual media into a new form of collaborative art, merging Tudor's experimental sounds with Davies' filmmaking artistry and Matisse's fanciful underwater kite sculptures. The recreated installation allows today's audiences to experience the 20-year old work as it was first staged, along with a display of personal notes, archival sketches, letters, charts, photographs and other material exchanged between the three artists during the creative process. The exhibition explores Tudor's work within the history of experimental music and mixed-media collaboration characteristic of the postwar period.

 Rediscovered in 2001, the original footage of Sea Tails was added to the extensive David Tudor archives held in the Special Collections of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute. The exhibition furthers the programming that crystallized in the international symposium "The Art of David Tudor: Indeterminacy and Performance in Postwar Culture," organized in collaboration with California Institute of the Arts in May 2001. It reflects the Getty's commitment to exploring the arts across disciplines and is part of the Getty Research Institute's new contemporary programming effort aimed at incorporating more recent art and artists into the Getty's offerings.

 Sea Tails: A Video Collaboration presents the version of the piece that premiered at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris on June 3, 1983. Visitors viewed an arrangement of three pairs of video monitors showing colorful kites undulating in blue water, accompanied by an evocative electronic score. Twenty-two minutes long, the work's three channels of video and audio play in a continuous loop, suspending the viewer in time and space.

 Tudor recorded the source sounds that he used for Sea Tails while on location with a film crew near the port city of Nassau in the Bahamas in February 1983. For eight days, Matisse and a team of divers pulled her kite creations through the water while Davies followed them underwater and filmed these underwater kite sculptures. Tudor stayed on board with headphones to monitor the recordings he was making of the underwater sounds. He categorized the sounds he collected and then layered, mixed, and rerecorded them. The result is a score with rhythmic percussive clicks that form patterns viewers will begin to see and hear in the installation video. 

The Collaborators
 Musician and composer David Tudor (1926–1996) was pianist for a group of four young composers: John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff, who came to be known as the New York School. They invented graphic scores for Tudor's realization at the piano, using procedures of chance and indeterminacy. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Tudor held positions as pianist-in-residence and instructor first at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina and, later, at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt, Germany, where he introduced piano works by American and European avant-garde composers. He performed piano and electronic music with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from its inception in the summer of 1953 and, after John Cage's death in 1992, succeeded him as music director. Tudor created his first composition, Bandoneon! (a combine), for the performance series 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, held in New York City in 1966 and spearheaded by Billy Klüver's organization Experiments in Art and Technology. In 1973 Tudor formed Composers Inside Electronics, an ensemble dedicated to the composition and performance of live electronic music. Tudor's Soundings: Ocean Diary (1994) constitutes the electronic portion of Cage's last composition Ocean, a work with an orchestral score by Andrew Culver, performed by dancers and large instrumental forces positioned around the audience.

 The French artist Jackie Matisse (b. 1931) creates kites and kite tail sculptures. She collaborated with Tudor on the unrealized mixed-media installation Island Eye Island Ear (1974–1984); the video Tailing a Dream (1985); the installation pieces 9 Lines Reflected (1986), Lines and Reflections (1987–1988), and Volatils with Sonic Reflections (1990); and the exhibition of Tudor's sound table Sounds and Files (2000). From 1931 to 1954 she lived in New York, where her father, Pierre Matisse, ran his now-historic gallery of modern art. Between 1959 and 1968 she assisted her stepfather, Marcel Duchamp, in assembling his Boite-en-valise (portable museum). Matisse is currently keeper of the Duchamp archives.

 The American filmmaker Molly Davies (b. 1944) first began making experimental films in the late 1960s in New York City. Among her projects are four pieces commissioned by the Theater am Turm in Frankfurt and a three-screen synchronous film titled Beyond the Far Blue Mountains. Davies has also worked with musicians such as John Cage, Takehisa Kosugi, Alvin Curran, Lou Harrison, Fred Frith, and Michael Nyman. Her six-monitor/six-channel video installation David Tudor's Ocean documents Tudor setting up and performing his electronic score Soundings: Ocean Diary for the Cage/Cunningham collaborative multimedia piece Ocean with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in June 1994 in Amsterdam.

Related Activities

A new Web resource, "The Art of David Tudor", was launched on by the Getty Research Institute in March, 2004. It expands the original 2001 Tudor Symposium Web site through original scholarship on Tudor's career, biographies of his collaborators, and links to pertinent Research Library Collections. The new site contains eight audiovisual clips featuring segments from the CalArts installation of Rainforest IV and the artists' panel that was part of the symposium, a performance of Tudor's live electronic work Dialects, as well as clips from Sea Tails, and of his performances of pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pauline Oliveros, and John Cage. Also included is an excerpt from the film David Tudor's Ocean, with an electronic score
by Tudor which accompanied Cage's last piece with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (1994).

Panel Discussion
September 14, 2004, 7:00 p.m., Harold Williams Auditorium
In conjunction with Sea Tails: A Video Collaboration, the Getty Research Institute will host a panel discussion with Jackie Matisse and Molly Davies. The composer and scholar Ron Kuivila of Wesleyan University will join the artists, and collections curator Nancy Perloff will moderate. The discussion will center on the artists' collaborative roles, their initial conceptions of Sea Tails, and their goals in producing it with David Tudor. 

Beth Brett
Getty Communications Dept.

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