A live video performance by intermedia artist Claudia X. Valdes and experimental musician William Fowler Collins, "Jornada del Muerto," graced stages on two sides of the world last month, at Netwerk Center for Contemporary Art in Belgium and the John Donald Robb Composers' Symposium at UNM.
Though they've been together 12 years, this piece is the couple's first collaboration. Valdes said now that they've collaborated, "it's uncanny to see where some of the concepts overlap" even in their earlier work.
Both have long worked in electronic arts, though primarily for different senses – Valdes for vision and Collins for sound.
Collins teaches sound art and Valdes is assistant professor of electronic arts in UNM's Department of Art and Art History.
They gave a "Meet the Composers" talk during the Robb Composer's Symposium, where students, faculty, staff and visitors learned about composers' artistic histories and processes.
Collins said the guitar is always "at the core" of his music, "even if it's wearing a different disguise or takes a new shape." He might alter it to sound like an archival recording, or digitally stretch and smear it to create a wall of sound. He calls the digital transformation a "reinterpretation" of the guitar.
Valdes called Collins' music a "cinematic soundscape." She said it takes the audience over a threshold where "how we're listening is transformed."
Collins played excerpts from two compositions: "Dark Country Road" and "Enter the Host, Part 1." He also played an excerpt from "Voltaic Processions" by Mesa Ritual, his collaborative project with Raven Chacon. As the tracks played, internal complexities emerged, dominated and were swallowed again. The sustained tension in the sounds was a palpable force, like a trembling in every cell. Valdes described this tension as an arc building to a moment of climax.
Valdes' art in 2001-09 focused on the history of U.S. nuclear arms, creating more than 40 nuclear-themed artworks she collectively calls "The Nuclear Project."
She showed digital video art "Suppressing the Dream," an investigation into memory and trauma, and "192:291," which she described as "modeling the potential destruction of the world in five minutes." The 192 repetitions of footage of the first televised atomic bomb test echo the 192 officially recognized countries in the world.
Valdes is in the process of developing a new body of work.