The Dudion Levers, 2008

The Dudion Levers

The Dudion Levers was the fruit of the collaboration between the artist Michael Portnoy and Oliver Sudden –engineer, tinkerer, and former opera singer, as well as the nephew of the writer Boris Vian. A long time admirer of Boris Vian, fascinated by Vian’s visionary imagery, and his activities within the College of Pataphysics, Portnoy began to exchange thoughts and comments with Sudden on his uncle’s inventions after meeting in 2007. Oliver Sudden discovered in Vian’s archives sketches for a vocal “power tool” that would transform the voice into a massive orchestral unisound, which is then imprinted upon or inscribed on objects, or in some cases transforms or forms objects in the vicinity. The “brain” of this instrument was “the Dudion Levers”, a constellation of resonating glyphs. Sudden, once a famous tenor in the 70’s (under a different name) before a rare throat condition ended his career, has lived in anonymity and seclusion in Brittany, running a small shop which repairs analog synthesizers, and studying mollusks. He constructed an interpretation of the mechanics of The INSTRUMENT and asked Portnoy to give it his voice and to contribute in modernizing the instrument’s sound, functionality and physical design. The INSTRUMENT has two parts –The Microphone, and The Cooker. Portnoy chooses three objects and places them in The Cooker. He then conceives an art project involving these objects and sings a song about it into The Microphone. The INSTRUMENT transforms Portnoy’s voice into a shifting combination of orchestral instruments, synthesizers, drums, guitars, etc. (based on his pitch, intonation and many other variables) and this song is inscribed simultaneously upon the assemblage of objects in mother-of-pearl graphic notation.

 

The INSTRUMENT

The INSTRUMENT, 2008
Consisting of The Microphone and The Cooker
American black walnut, electronics and copper, gold leaf, felt, mother of pearl shells, machinery
178 x 81 x 152 cm and 102 x 117 x 102 cm

 

The Cooker

The INSTRUMENT, 2008
Consisting of The Microphone and The Cooker
American black walnut, electronics and copper, gold leaf, felt, mother of pearl shells, machinery
178 x 81 x 152 cm and 102 x 117 x 102 cm

 

 

The Dudion Levers

(Song about) Prominent New Adult Contemporary (i.e., Smooth Jazz) artists are invited to a cocktail party on Park Avenue to “celebrate the art form”. When they arrive, the doorman leads them to a washroom and tells them they must cleanse their nasal cavities with a neti pot as the hosts hate to hear the sound of obstructed nose breathing, and the idea that purulent material might be lurking so close to the eyes. They are then told to drink a strong brew of iced maté, as the hosts also hate to be around anyone “too jazzy”, which the doorman explains to mean “airy” or “chill”. Anyone who objects is kindly told to leave. Those that comply are led upstairs in a service elevator to a kitchen with platters of the finest foods and told to eat as the hosts hate to be around people eating as it distracts them from listening to people breathe. After a while, a well dressed 5- year-old girl enters the kitchen dragging a well dressed 5-year-old boy by the hair who clutches a soprano saxophone to his body like a security blanket. Whenever he tries to put it to his mouth, she yanks his hair harder and says, “pre-be, post- be, dis-be, mis-be, over-be, un-be!” The doorman whispers to the artists, “It’s when you gallop that your parasites are most alive.”, 2008,
Capezio jazz shoe, box for a neti pot, máte spoon, mother-of-pearl

The Dudion levers
Performance December 11th, 2008 at Martos Gallery NY -
(photographs Augustin de Valence)