The iconic 1972 performance Ice Music for London by Charlotte Moorman is reimagined for today with ICED BODIES. An ice cello, dyed black and embedded with electronics is played by musician Seth Parker Woods and translated into sound by composer Spencer Topel, paying tribute to an avant-garde past while reflecting on the Black bodies lost to mental illness and violence in the African American community even now. This performance is presented by the Weisman as part of the 2023 Great Northern Festival. There will be tea and coffee available for guests throughout the performance in WAM’s adjacent Riverview Gallery.
Performance: Saturday, January 28, 2:30 – 4 p.m. | Shepherd Room
Online ticket reservations have now closed. If you’d like to attend but have not registered in advance, rush seating will be allowed at performance time as room capacity permits.
Online ticket registration is now closed. Rush seating will be available as room capacity permits during the performance.
About ICED BODIES
In 1972, artist Jim McWilliams devised a piece for cellist Charlotte Moorman called Ice Music for London, which premiered at the Roundhouse, London. Moorman, nude, ‘played’ a cello-shaped ice sculpture with a Plexiglas ‘bow’ for multiple hours. On the 48th anniversary of the original work, Seth Parker Woods and Spencer Topel readdress McWilliams’ concept with an immersive two-hour performance installation experience seeking to dramatize the ephemerality of matter in phase transition. The inherent vulnerability of a melting ice sculpture – with its eventual destruction–informs and drives the narrative of the work. Choreographic strikes, taps, scrapes, bowing and gouges produced by Woods, translate into sound by Topel who responds, processes and diffuses these actions across glass panels suspended around the space. Over several hours Woods feeds the sonification of material transformation by hastening the process through meditative and violent destruction. Once melted away, fragments of ice reveal the inner ‘organs’ of the sculpture, consisting of hydrophones, wires, and a black Lucite fin.
As a conceptual statement, ICED BODIES serves as an ode and response to those struggling minds, and bruised, tattered, and broken black bodies on display in the media by supplanting the cold body – the frozen body – of those lost to mental illness and violence in black communities, with that of a black ice cello.
Vocal emanations from within the cello serve to bridge socio-political themes in this work to the introspective and personal experience of the audience. In addition to sounds captured and activated through the ice, a disembodied male voice is heard reciting poetic phrases sonically diffused on spatialized glass sculptures. These sounds serve as sonic feedback loops, evoking the isolation and neglect of voice hearers battling mental disorders within both the black communities and the world at large. The audience at the end is left to contemplate and reflect upon the visual image of freed bodies, represented by shards of ice, electronic entrails, and the sounds of an unrestrained voice liberated from the ice, symbolized by the performer clutching a sound emitting transducer.
About the Artists
Topel | Woods is an artist collective creating visual art, music, installation and experimental media. Their work prompts audiences and visitors to consider the role of art in relation to society, technology, and identity. Formed in 2017 by Spencer Topel and Seth Parker Woods, Topel & Woods’ first major project was ICED BODIES: Ice Music for Chicago at The Arts Club of Chicago. Subsequently, they presented ICED BODIES at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2019. They continue to develop new work addressing society, culture, and race in performance and installation projects.
Hailed by The Guardian as “a cellist of power and grace” who possesses “mature artistry and willingness to go to the brink,” cellist Seth Parker Woods has established a reputation as a versatile artist straddling several genres. In addition to solo performances, he has appeared with the Ictus Ensemble (Brussels, BE), Ensemble L’Arsenale (IT), zone Experimental (CH), Basel Sinfonietta (CH), Ensemble LPR, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Atlanta and Seattle Symphony’s. A fierce advocate for contemporary arts, Woods has collaborated and worked with a wide range of artists ranging from the likes of Louis Andriessen, Elliott Carter, Heinz Holliger, G. F. Haas, Helmut Lachenmann, Klaus Lang, and Peter Eötvos to Peter Gabriel, Sting, Lou Reed, Dame Shirley Bassey, and Rachael Yamagata to such visual artists as Ron Athey, Vanessa Beecroft, Jack Early, Adam Pendleton, and Aldo Tambellini.
Spencer Topel is an American artist combining sound, installation, and performance. His practice is often characterized as an exploration between sculpture and musical instruments, expressed in a variety of works ranging from site-specific installations to performance art pieces. At the heart of this inquiry is the notion that objects have their own unique voice, and the task of the artist is to reveal and amplify this quality. Collaboration is a central part of Topel’s practice, which led to the formation of Physical Synthesis in 2019, a company focused on the development of new musical instruments, including Cicada release in 2021. Collaborations include installations and albums with different artists, including projects with architect and artist Hana Kassem, cellist and artist Seth Parker Woods, and violinist-composer Pauline Kim Harris. Most recently, Topel was Artist-in-Residence at The Yale Quantum Institute, where he and his collaborators developed the first-ever musical synthesizer using Qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers.
Want to know more about this project? Watch the Weisman’s artist talk with the duo, moderated by Douglas Kearney, recorded from a live event held last year.