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John Berndt, Ecstatic Thought Experiments, 1989 – 2009

Emily Harvey Foundation
537 Broadway, Second Floor, 212-925-7651
April 15 - April 30, 2009
Reception: Friday, April 17, 7 - 10 PM
Web Site

Performance Nights: Friday April 24th and Saturday April 25th, 7PM-9PM ($6 admission for each night)

The Emily Harvey Foundation presents the first major retrospective of works by John Berndt (b. 1967). Best known as a prolific musician, composer, and improviser as well as a key organizer in the scene surrounding the international High Zero festival, from the very beginning Berndt’s work also has involved the creation of coherent novelties in a broader range of media, including personal behavior, film, visual art, text, installation and a variety of non-musical performance genres. This panoramic sensibility is the subject of the show.

As a teenager in the mid-80s, Berndt became the youngest member of the international Neoist movement, contributing as a core member to the development of its philosophy adopting falsehoods, mythologies, mind games, and hoaxes. In the early 90’s, Berndt became a student of Henry Flynt, the visionary philosopher and original author of “Concept Art”. This relationship, which has recently deepened into collaboration, had a huge effect on the clarification of Berndt’s thought, and led to an increased emphasis on writing sincere philosophy, and framing his varied activities as manifestations of a unified, radical sensibility of consciousness. At the same time, Berndt became a student of world-renowned avant-garde saxophonist Jack Wright and of experimental instrument inventor Neil Feather. Through these relationships, he dramatically broadened his approach, developing extended technical ability on a variety of instruments, and developing novel approaches to sound production becoming an advocate of non-idiomatic, freely improvised music and performing in hundreds of freely improvised concerts and on many recordings, including collaborations with leading figures.

In Ecstatic Thought Experiments, 1989 – 2009, the Emily Harvey Foundation brings together the dimensions of Berndt’s work over a twenty year period, ranging from micro- to macro- experiences. A large installation submerges visitors in a uniquely disorienting visual space. A small book, made especially for the exhibit, contains descriptions of impossible objects. Novel optical illusions give the visitor new experiences. A dance solo continues fluidly forever without repeating. Original instruments expose new aesthetics and performance possibilities. Theoretical texts frame lived experience in ways that are destabilizing to faith in conventional knowledge.

The exhibit is also enriched by three nights of concerts, covering a broad range of Berndt’s solo and collaborative projects, starting with an opening concert on Friday April 17th, and continuing with two nights on April 24th and 25th.
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