2010 – Scott Benzel Press Release

SCOTT BENZEL / January 10, 2010 from 5 to 7 PM with live performances at 5:30PM and 6:30 PM

Inversions I-IV: The Score and the Plan

Four string quartets played live, video, record lacquers, ephemera

At Apartment 2, in his first US solo exhibition, artist and composer Scott Benzel inverts and arranges pop songs for string quartet and video, exposing occurences of “reversal” in Los Angeles’ musical history and what might happen were the frameworks that support that history – architecture, film and industry – to be turned upside down.

The score is to a piece of music what the plan is to an architectural site. A fundamental alteration of the score’s logic necessarily produces a change in the music. Inversion is such an alteration – a compositional effect achieved by literally turning the score upside down. Familiar melodies become recognizable but strange – a musical palindrome in the melodic and harmonic structures.

Some of the works chosen by Benzel for reinterpretation have contradiction and inversion built in: “Never Learn Not to Love” credited to Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and released on their Capitol Records album 20/20 was actually written by Charles Manson. Manson’s title for the song was “Cease to Exist”; it’s first line, “Cease to Exist, come and say you love me”, was altered by Wilson to “Cease to Resist, come and say you love me.” Wilson’s alterations reversed Manson’s nihilism into something like affirmation. Wilson’s title suggests the Hegelian “Negation of Negation” taken up by Horkheimer and Adorno in their (L.A. penned) critique of mass culture, The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Benzel pairs the string quartets with upended videos of sites tied to these histories: the Capitol Records building’s famous spire becomes a knife or a record stylus. The L.A basin at night becomes an alien mothership – reflecting the night a young Steven Spielberg lay stoned and upside down on the hood of his car looking out on the lights of Los Angeles. From his view, the city appeared as a massive spaceship, an experience that initiated conception of what would later become Close Encounters.

Finally, the mass production and distribution processes of the recording industry are “inverted.” Benzel presses recordings of the quartets into one-of-a-kind lacquers that deteriorate each time they are played.

Scott Benzel is an artist and composer living and working in Los Angeles. His visual and sound-based artwork has been shown at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (in collaboration with Sam Durant and Tom Recchion), Art Basel: Statements (in collaboration with Andrea Bowers), The Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA, The Western Front, Vancouver, BC, Track 16, Los Angeles, Mandrake, Los Angeles, and Performa 09, New York (in collaboration with Mike Kelley). He has collaborated with Mike Kelley on the soundtracks to Kelley’s installations Day is Done at Gagosian, New York, Profondeurs Vertes at the Louvre, Paris, and Kelley and Michael Smith’s A Voyage of Growth and Discovery at the Sculpture Center in New York.  MFA 2001 California Institute of the Arts, BA 1995 University of Arizona.

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