ReVIEWING A Legacy: BMCM+AC Debuts Black Mountain Songs and Active Archive


ReVIEWING A Legacy: BMCM+AC Debuts Black Mountain Songs and Active Archive

  • Ali McGhee

    Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary...

Black Mountain Songs. Source: BMCM+AC

Immersive installations, internationally-renowned keynote speakers, and cutting-edge performers: just a few of the things we'll experience from September 29 through October 1, when Black Mountain College brings its ReVIEWING conference to Asheville once again on the last weekend in September. This time around, there are some new offerings on the scheulde to get excited about. While the core of ReVIEWING has always been the conference, held at UNCA and featuring a keynote talk from artist Mel Chin and a panel discussion from members of the Black Mountain Songs creative team (a creative team that, by the way, includes Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry), the ReVIEWING also marks the beginning of two new projects that will launch over the conference weekend.

A Legacy of Song

Black Mountain Songs will premiere in Asheville as the first program resulting from BMCM+AC's Performance Initiative, which will bring large-scale, interdisciplinary performance pieces to Asheville. The interdisciplinary, experimental choral performance happens on Friday and Saturday nights at the Diana Wortham Theatre and reflects one of the College's core values: creative collaboration.

Curated by musicians Parry and Bryce Dessner (of The National), the night brings together the efforts of set designers, filmmakers, and composers, each of whom created a different section of the piece. The piece, which will be performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, debuted at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in 2014. It also features Parry, along with Caroline Shaw, of experimental a capella outfit Roomful of Teeth, and the recent recipient of a Pulitzer Prize. Gus Solomons, Jr., a member of Merce Cunningham's dance company, will also perform. Sections were composed by Parry, Dessner, Shaw, Aleksandra Vrebalov, John King, Tim Hecker, and Jherek Bischoff. The performance features visuals from filmmaker Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell). 

BMCM+AC Executive Director Jeff Arnal points out that the performance  "relates so much to the history and spirit of collaboration at Black Mountain College" in its composition and execution. "The members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus are amazing young vocalists with a great, visionary leader, Founder and Artistic Director Dianne Berkun-Menaker, who commissions compositions all the time, and they've worked with so many great, established and up-and-coming classical and indie rock composers," he notes. 

Archives in Action


The second program stream that will launch in conjunction with ReVIEWING is Active Archive, which opens with work commissioned from the Museum's artist-in-residence, Martha McDonald. Active Archive "is a new platform that allows contemporary artists, scholars, and curators an opportunity to look at our collection," says Arnal. "We have several thousands of pieces of artwork and ephemera from the College and in the spirit of what happened at the College, and we're also interested in how artists can look outside of the gallery and relate to the city itself through their work here."

McDonald's exhibition, according to the official press release, "will activate an installation of objects and costumes drawn from Xanti Schawinsky's 1936 experimental theater piece, Spectodrama." Xanti Schawinsky. Source: BMCM+AC

McDonald has a particular interest in the early years of the College and the inspiration faculty and students took from the Bauhaus movement. The exhibition opening will take place on Friday of the conference weekend at both locations of the BMCM+AC (at 56 and 69 Broadway). McDonald did paper studies inspired by Josef Albers and created costumes from the foldings that will be on display. Pieces of the exhibition also relate to the danse macabre and the Bauhaus movement, and the immersive installation will also include a mural created specifically for the event. 

Tickets to Black Mountain Songs are $20 ($12 aged 18 and under). Full conference passes for ReVIEWING, which start at $20 per day, are on sale now and include a discount on Black Mountain Songs. Active Archive is free and open to the public.

Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 as a progressive liberal arts school, and offered programs for 25 years, attracting artists on the vanguard of the avant-garde, the experimental, and the groundbreaking, including John Cage, Elaine de Kooning, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. For more information on the College, click here.