Le Violon d’Ingres

Man Ray's Le Violon d'Ingres. Gelatin silver print (1924)

This is probably the single most recognizable “cello” images to be found anywhere.  I remember first studying Man Ray and the New York Dada in Art History Class and then later as I got into performing Dada and Fluxus works and doing performance art.  In fact, it was one of the inspirations for an experimental cello video I did as part of a video collage component of a multi-media Performance Art performance I did at DePauw University back in 2002.

The Getty Museum has a very nice and concise description of the work:

Man Ray
American, 1924
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 x 8 15/16 in.
86.XM.626.10

Man Ray was an admirer of the paintings of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and made a series of photographs, inspired by Ingres’s languorous nudes, of the model Kiki in a turban. Painting the f-holes of a stringed instrument onto the photographic print and then rephotographing the print, Man Ray altered what was originally a classical nude. He also added the title Le Violon d’Ingres, a French idiom that means “hobby.” The transformation of Kiki’s body into a musical instrument with the crude addition of a few brushstrokes makes this a humorous image, but her armless form is also disturbing to contemplate. The title seems to suggest that, while playing the violin was Ingres’s hobby, toying with Kiki was a pastime of Man Ray. The picture maintains a tension between objectification and appreciation of the female form.

The video piece I did, titled le violoncelle de Silpayamanant, was simply a video of me ‘shaving’ one of my cellos.  The title of the video fading into view at the end of the act and before the fade out the word “rase” (shaved) appears onscreen in my attempt to invoke Marcel Duchamp‘s “shaved Mona Lisa” series.  Here’s a still from the video:

still from the video, le violoncelle de Silpayamanant (2002)

 

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Experimental Cellos and Cellists

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Some time ago I had started a community on livejournal (back in January of 2003) called “Avantcello.”  It was a space for folks interested in non-standard cello practice to post their interest or work.  I had given a number talks on Experimental cellos and cellists over the years up till that point and wanted to have some place to connect with folks who were interested since I wasn’t really finding any sort of community at the Internet Cello Society forums interested in this kind of thing.

Back in the mid to late 90s I was really experimenting a lot with cello.  I was heavily into improvisation and started performing my own house concert series doing works by some of the “Academic Avant-Garde” composers and Fluxus artists as well as getting into electronics and amplification.  I pretty much quit playing [the cello] by 1997 and got involved with the non-academic Experimental and Noise Music scene.

I toured around a bit and did a number of Performance Art shows (another interest I had at the time) as well as multi-media performances involving Experimental video that I was starting to do. In the end, some of that was becoming unsatisfying as well though I enjoyed the journey.  The cello was starting to call me back. Continue reading