Monday, March 14, 2011

Alex Caldiero, "Flowers" [L1]

Caldiero, Alex. “Alex Caldiero–Flowers.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Feb. 2009. Web. 4 Oct. 2010. [L1]

This twenty-three second performance concludes with three words: "Flowers are amazing," a sentence that takes Caldiero less than two seconds to annunciate. The first twenty-one seconds of the performance, however, add value to that less-than-two second climax. During this time, Caldiero breaks the word "flowers" into its component sounds (its phonemes, if you want to get linguistic), then performs acoustic variations on each phonemic theme. This improvisational fragmentation emphasizes the materiality of the word and its sonal making and unmaking through the vocal apparatus (i.e. the lungs, the throat, the palate, the tongue, the teeth, the lips). Which is to say that the performer, through his extra-ordinary sounding of "flowers," makes the word less familiar for listeners, something illustrated in the recording when the audience laughs, whether out of discomfort—because they don't quite know what to make of the performance—or because the performance is perhaps a bit ridiculous and funny—or maybe a little bit of both. Whatever the reason for the laughter, by making "flowers" less familiar, Caldiero compels us to look beyond the letters and what they mean when arbitrarily combined into the word and to feel how and where the word's sounds originate and combine in the body. In this way, when he concludes by saying, "Flowers. Flowers are amazing," he could be observing that the sign (the word) and/or its component sounds and/or the thing they signify (the brightly-colored, petaled plant that I can't get to grow in my garden) are somehow worthy of our wonder and our continued (critical) attention. And by so observing, he invites listeners into a renewed relationship with and understanding of language and its material, embodied processes.