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Perfomance: Maxwell Sterling & Stephen McLaughlin A/V at Space 289 London

Text by CLOT Magazine

This Saturday, 31st July, at Space 289 in London, coincident with the venue launch weekend, musician and experimental producer Maxwell Sterling is presenting a new live show along with designer Stephen Mclaughlin.

Part of the live show will be based on Sterling’s latest album, Turn Of Phrase, published a few months ago on ad93. The album explores concepts of weird juxtapositions of space and time. While the music unfolds anachronistic, technically guided by a strict set of rules based on time, the record’s memories and environments are allowed to wander and overlap.

Time plays a central role in the record beyond just that rhythm. From the way Sterling’s ideas and inspirations dart around his past, and his present to the more face-level blending of ancient, pre-digital sounds, such as Gregorian chanting with digital processing and synthesis, Turn Of Phrase uses the time to be free of the very thing that binds it.

The visual aspect of the show has been greatly inspired by Turn Of Phrase and some of its main themes and all the baroque layers, grandeur, artifice and the collision of a seemingly different era. McLaughlin, who is also the digital producer of CLOT Magazine, immediately had Peter Greenaway’s masterpiece ‘Prosperos Books’ in mind:

I’ve always admired the slightly incongruous theatricality of the setting mixed with (then) cutting-edge video and graphic layering technique, which is now made an anachronism by the shifting of technological standards. That, for me, perfectly summed up the uneasy tension of the elements of the album, and I wanted to translate that into something that worked with what was already there in the artwork.

Maxwell Sterling with Stephen McLaughlin A/V Show Preview

The live show opportunity meant for McLaughlin that he would be able to explore other techniques outside his regular comfort zones as a motion designer while also delving a bit further into ‘that funny feeling’ that certain images evoke that make them feel out of time. 

After a year where every aspect of culture has seemed to be synthesised in real-time by operators that are less than transparent and out of our control, he began relating it to Sterling’s work a lot: I wanted a way to capture the uncanniness of being a powerlessness bystander as it happens in front of you in a rush of detail. I started experimenting with image creation on neural networks.

It feels like the weird technocratic (un)reality we exist in – there is a seemingly democratic dialogue with the machine at points where we are allowed to feel in control. Still, in the end, the outcome is a bastardised hall of mirrors reflection of good intention.

This is surely a time when with technology, we are able to warp time and space into strangely uncharted territories. At the same time, we feel more belonging and more displaced than ever, almost as watching one of Greenaway’s eerie film incarnations, confused by both the old and modern and a foot between the real and unreal and those places that imprint unattainable memories on us. This new live show, which is a work in progress, seems it may be a nice ascent into some beautiful madness that binds all this together.

Space 289 launch performance series, curated by producer and DJ Flora Yin-Wong, kicks off Thursday, 29th July, until the end of August. More info here.

(Media courtesy of the artists)
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