Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) tossed cymbals, banged gongs, and blew bird whistles into a microphone on Friday night at the Berkeley Art Museum as part four of the Gatherings series curated by David Wilson. Stewart aimed to create sounds inspired by “the night, animal calls, and quietness.” His performance was completely chaotic seeming to be propelled by nothing more than Stewart’s impulses creating an animalistic element. The crashing cymbals, that even Stewart plugged his ears for, induced a shock that hastened heart rates, increased anxiety levels and seemed to put its listeners on edge. Upon closing my eyes a primal feeling arose inside me as if I were an animal being hunted in the night.
Stewart’s performance “ask(ed) us to fill in the (quiet) spaces with our own imagination and observation” (David Wilson). However, Stewart’s performance was saturated with sound, whether it was the shuffling of his shoes in the microphone or the faint and dying vibrations of a gong. These vacant and silent spaces may have strengthened the performance by giving a stronger juxtaposition to the noises he was creating. That being said, the performance lacked the artist’s statement which has enriched the previous Gatherings. Without the artist explanation it created confusion and an incompleteness to the performance. Stewart’s performance brought a potent experience to his audience, but fell short of an explanation.