"Life In Aliquippa" (1993)
This is video cutup primarily features footage of Michael Johnsen, Brian Dean Richmond and Edgar Um Bucholtz performing in Aliquippa, PA in 1993 as part of Michelle Illuminato's Aliquippa Embraces Art. The venue for this trio performance was a large empty, decrepit department store in downtown Aliquippa.
For his performance, Edgar Um Bucholtz spent many days researching the story of the town of Aliquippa (at the Aliquippa Library, at the Carnegie Library in Oakland and in the Labor archives at Hillman Library.) For example, he learned of Queen Aliquippa (for whom the city is named and whose name translates as "large hat" for which she was famous for wearing), a leader of the Seneca tribe of American Indians who became an important British Ally leading up to the French and Indian War. He learned of the many African-American families who were moved en masse to Aliquippa in the 1970's to work at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill--only to be left mostly without jobs after the collapse of the Steel Industry in the 1980s.
In the performance, he read this text he compiled about the origins and history of the city of Aliquippa. He sat at a table in the middle front of the large space. His voice was sent via microphone and cable to the very back of the room into a 30 second delay and then into an amplification speaker system. The very apparent delay between his live reading voice and his amplified delayed voice was disorienting.
Michael Johnsen also sat at the table with a brass microscope & some video equipment (all equipment, including Bucholtz's was powered via one dangerously warm 200 ft blue extension cord dressed through the wet and sagging floor). On a small monitor, visitors were able to observe the teeming microscopic "Life in Aliquippa" contained in sample of ditchwater collected behind the venue. These were tough times for people in Aliquippa, reflected in the general tenor of the other work in the show, but the protozoa seemed to be doing quite well. Some children asked if "they" were predicting the weather.
Michael also projected a 16mm black & white film loop of sow bugs.
After Edgar Um Bucholtz finished reading his text, he, Michael and Brian Dean Richmond repeatedly played and improvised on three tone rows. Michael played clarinet. Brian played trombone. Edgar played cornet. Edgar Um Bucholtz derived these tone rows from the letters in the various spellings of the name Aliquippa using a alpha-tonal transcription method he devised.
This video cutup also also features bits and pieces of a video by Edgar Um Bucholtz called "Noise In System." The video ends with a bit of Christian evangelical TV re-edited by Edgar Um Bucholtz.