Sissy Spacek/K2 special edition
What to make of bizarro Christian noise artist Clang Quartet
It’s not easy to shock and surprise a room full of seen-it-all hipsters at an avant garde performance/art space in Bushwick, Brooklyn in the year 2014. It’s harder still to make Christianity seem subversive. But Clang Quartet managed to achieve both at Silent Barn this past Saturday night (October 11th).
The solo project of North Carolina native Scotty Irving, who easily has the manic energy of four men, Clang Quartet’s improvisational performance is “based metaphorically on [Irving’s] life as a follower of Jesus Christ,” according to his record label. Part Passion Play, part pantomimed tent revival meeting, Irving exorcises his demons onstage through screeching, droning electronic outbursts, spastic but rhythmic drumming, and visual images that are as kitschy and cartoonish as they are creepy and arresting.
Clang Quartet’s stage set and costumes seem comprised from the remains of a trailer park ravaged by a twister: Masks and body armor made of plastic pool tubing, broken pinwheels and kids’ toys, an old crutch, bits of rusted metal, outdated Christmas ornaments, brightly coloreds tags and labels, and so much more it’s hard to catch it all. And Irving seems as shaped by Stryper, Chick tracts, and Vacation Bible School as he is by horror movies and 1980s WWF.
Irving is an open scrapbook onstage, and his performance plays out like a collage of deep-seeded memories and subconscious struggles resurrected. He also seems 100% sincere in his convictions and his show is completely free of irony. And what keeps him from being a Christian nightmare is the fact that he doesn’t shove his beliefs down anyone’s throat. There’s no verbal proselytizing, no, “You’re going to need to make the most important decision of your lives tonight, folks!” or, “Come up and talk to me after the show if you want to learn about the coolest guy that ever lived, Jesus Christ.” At the end of his performance, he simply turns his cardboard cross around to reveal a message of redemption—and it seems to have worked for him.
To watch a short documentary about Clang Quartet from 2001, click here.
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