(429) Jerry Hunt 429

The lines of the I Ching diagrams
Are interpreted by their appearance;
Contemplation without completion.

The following is a review I wrote of a performance by Jerry Hunt whose work could always be seen as an exploration and unfolding of "self" yet also, in this case, is performed in the context which causes it to address a serious social problem:

Jerry Hunt's life demonstrates the problems that come with being innovative. He taught briefly at the prestigious, conservative Southern Methodist University but was, not surprisingly, unhappy there and has been freelancing for over a decade now. Hunt is understandably cynical on the subject of his career as a composer, his ups and downs mirroring those in public and private funding of the arts from the 60's to now.

Hunt is well known as a regular at the Kitchen in New York, having performed there since its inception. He has worked closely with David Tudor and his mentor, John Cage. Hunt has headlined various New Music festivals throughout the United States and Europe, yet has always maintained an address close to Dallas. Lately, he has been living in a house he built in Canton in the piney woods of East Texas. Obsessively, he makes wildly contorted visual/audio objects which become components of his performances - thumped, rattled, shaken, broken, and generally abused. In fact, the nightmare malfunctioning of his electronic and primitive instruments alike has become a cornerstone of his tense and eerie style.

Hunt's eccentric lifestyle and daring performances have been an inspiration to many young composers. By his openness and accessibility, he has created an informal network through which many artists of new work can be in touch. His own work is shamanistic in the sense that he is clearly possessed in his performances by something outside of and very different from his personality, he seems to lead his audiences into Freud's shadowy world of the unconscious, or perhaps into Heidegger's Riss.

Hunt performed in the Great Hall, a rare honor for a performer in the staunch Dallas Museum of Art. On "A Day Without Art," the entrance to the museum was blocked by a black wall and there was over the entrance a giant LED which kept morbid count of the AIDS victims dying throughout the world. The inner core of the audience snapped into focus from Hunt's first word. Towards the outer edges of the audience, into the long halls of the museum, the focus was less concentrated. Hunt introduced his pieces: first Birome (Zone):Plane and the Trapani(stream), produced in memory of his friend, the composer Jack Briece, who died from complication of AIDS in March 1988. He passed out copies of the score to the latter piece along with ceramic bells for audience participation. As usual, Hunt appeared as one possessed, more stereotypically mad scientist than a museum-sanctioned artist. As the performance unfolded his phrases became progressively more broken, less linear. Seeming dangerously unpredictable to the uninitiated, he frequently tweaked and fiddled with his beloved wires and black boxes. But he was transformed into a comfortable and approachable showman as he later, deliberately and delicately, displayed colorful woven little objects to the audience.

Hunt's loud banging on a well-worn brown suitcase attracted more audience from the museum halls, which in turn got progressively quieter and emptier, allowing the booms to echo. Images, possible of his woven objects, passed quickly across video monitors placed behind him. Some mischievous or angry spirit that seemed to enter him would often deliberately taunt a group of young girls in private school uniforms. Sticking his tongue out as far as possible, stretching and curling it suggestively, he would suddenly explode, shaking his finger and yelling gibberish from another world.

The energy and momentum of Hunt's sound continued to increase as the performer's antics escalated, punctuated by pauses engendered, it would seem, by physical exhaustion. The sound climax was abruptly cut off when the tapes, sound processors, or whatever (you really never really know where the sound may be coming from) were terminated. The museum became a soundless void. Then the little ceramic bells began ringing. Hunt explored the museum beyond the audience that he had drawn, and we continued to hear the echoes of the booming brown suitcase, and to remember his friend who had died of AIDS.1

1 Price, Bob and Tre Roberts. "Jerry Hunt; Visual AIDS: A day Without Art," Art Papers, Vol. 14, No. 2, March/April 1990.

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