Museum of Contemporary Art, through Feb 25.
Terence Hannum’s video installation Evocation (this month’s installment of the “12 x 12 New Artists/New Work” series at the MCA) is about the visceral, transformative qualities of live music—in particular, the live performance of the drone-metal band Sunn 0))). Evocation is presented in a darkened room with video projections on three of the walls. The images are from a concert at the Logan Square Auditorium, taped by the artist last year. Sunn 0))) (pronounced “sun”) gets its name from the vintage amplifiers it uses, which can produce a dirty loudness like none other. Its songs are composed primarily of endless chords that hit low notes.
Hannum himself is a musician, and with his critical insight into lesser-known experimental bands like Sunn 0))), he’s sharing something special with us in what amounts to a virtual live concert. Viewers are barraged by both heavy, pounding tones and related screen effects: Little lights on the equipment do circular dances when a powerful chord sends shudders through the auditorium; by extension, that chord seems to reach us in the MCA gallery. This sonic experiment is darkly tinged by the figures onstage who appear as mysterious sorcerers amid the smoke and fog. Like wizards conjuring spells, they hold their guitars high, summoning the darkest of the rock gods as hands reach up from the crowd to touch the music—with the volume so high, and bass so powerful, grasping the sound seems possible.
It’s hard to tell where the performance ends and the video art begins. But Evocation is clearly more than just a documentary; Hannum is showcasing the ritualistic, religious aspects of live music.—Erik Wenzel