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From Death Valley to Paradise City: A different kind of ‘beat’ journey

By Michaella Francom on June 18, 2014

There’s an undeniable romance to the idea of climbing into a car and discovering the world head-on wherever the road, and your instincts, might take you. That’s the primary motivation behind multidisciplinary visual artist, musician and director Lisa Lipton (a.k.a FRANKIE)’s most recent works that compromise the screening get outta my dreams and into my car.

This Thursday’s screening (presented by Available Light Screening Collective) will be the first time Lipton shows all five films created during her Canada-U.S. journey and the first time she will perform alongside them. Apartment613 caught up with her this week to chat a bit about the work.

Apt613: I love the subtitle From Death Valley to Paradise City, there’s a hopeful or redemptive ring to it.  Did you intentionally choose your start and end points for that purpose?  And how did you choose your interim destinations?

Lisa Lipton: When I began this project / journey, the incentive was to just let go and lose control.  I wanted to challenge myself by taking a solo, unchartered course of travel across North America in order to see what I was made of.  I wanted to push the boundaries of my practice and dig into a drive that would force me into a present tense or Carpe Diem mentality, to get beyond the end product and absorb the process.

When I left Canada, the first point or destination was New York, given that I was invited to speak on a panel at the Museum Of Modern Art. California was a hot spot as well, because I wanted to meet my drumming idol at the time – Zach Hill.  But, beyond those incentives, the stopping points were chosen through suggestions provided by individuals, signs and symbols which revealed themselves on route to wherever.

Apt613: Canadian cinema has always been associated with a film culture that explores the countryside and is rooted in the idea of the road trip style journey. What motivated you to get out and hit the road?

LL: When I began the project, the idea was that I would teach myself how to drum, while pulling myself back from the rock stage or band projects and look into the cultural implications of the drum as a point of research for work.  In my spinning across Canada and with the conclusion of “Phase Two”, I found myself back in the basement drumming, all the while still wondering how we as kit drummers were connected.  I kept saying to myself – “get the F*&K out of the basement”…, which led to a personal dare, and then, the departure of my kit and myself in an old blue station wagon that I called “Deep Blue Chaos.”

Apt613: What did you discover that surprised you?

LL: I discovered that I was, in fact, capable of making work wherever I wanted; that I could survive and find engagement and critique for contemporary drumming projects; that I could trust my instincts and be lead towards valuable outcomes that were not predetermined.  I learnt about the levels of interconnectivity in a language that is spoken specifically by and through drummers; I discovered the depths of my personal limitations by entering into the deep ends of self-discovery that only arise through independent self-explorations.  I found out that I am addicted to challenge, which isn’t necessarily always for the better.

I came to value the absorption and/or understanding of one’s environment through the process of literally watching and feeling the landscapes shift around you, in driving the roads and going the distance. I have learnt to trust and follow my visions more than ever, as well as come to principle the importance of leaving your comfort zone and going were you think you can’t or shouldn’t, because it is those places and communities of people whereupon you will learn the most about yourself.

Apt613: Percussionists are so crucial when it comes to holding a band or orchestra together during performances, yet there’s a lot of room for improvisation too… How has taking up the drums influenced your approach to creation in general?

LL: I would go as far as to say that drummers are holding humanity together.  If you think about how much musical rhythms contribute to or effect our perceptions of reality, it’s hard not to believe there is a greater power in providing the beat(s).

During the first three years of this project I was drumming 4 hours + per day.  Interestingly, my attention span and life activities fell into 4-hour increments.  Then my body became addicted to the high level of physical activity, which meant on the days I couldn’t drum, I would start freaking out, almost in a state of panic…. that was pretty interesting.  I find that now, when I am drumming is when I have all of my “great” ideas; the meditative states that accompany drumming, and the flowing of energy and ideas is endless.  Drumming levels me out like nothing else.

Apt613: What is unique about cinema, as a medium, that made it most appropriate for this project?

LL: In truth, I sort of happened upon the depth of this project in its cinematic form.  The first chapter of The Impossible Blue Rose (Room 95) was merely me being lucky enough to have a professional, cinematic eye capture what was intended to be the documentation of a performance.  Not that I wasn’t or haven’t been interested in making videos or films; it’s just that, in L.A., I was suddenly given new access to the aftermath of a performance, new ways of seeing or cutting apart the perspectives for interpreting performance.  Suddenly I saw myself being captivated by the representations of live action after it happened, and the magic in editing.  I never intended to make a feature film when I left for this trip, it just happened.

Apt613: Anything else you’d like to add or a story you want to tell about your adventure/work?

The Impossible Blue Rose is trying to prove the blue rose as possible in reality, that a journey of hope toward attaining the impossible can breed possibility. – It’s based off reality, but feels like a dream –

In addition to the screening/performance Lipton is offering a drumming workshop (no skill required) on Saturday June 21st from 1:00p.m.-4:00p.m. The cost is $25 and the aim is to “provide a framework for students to explore individual music histories and rhythmic influence in order to build a stronger relationship with the drum”. For details or to register contact Julie Tucker or visit the event page.

Available Light Screening Collective* is presenting ‘get outta my dreams and into my car’ Thursday June 19th at 7:00p.m. at Club SAW (67 Nicholas Street). Opening performance by Catriona Sturton. Free admission. Cash bar and food by Friday Lunch Project will be available too!

*Available Light Screening Collective is an Ottawa-based volunteer organization committed to curating and presenting experimental media artworks.