Konrad Smoleński — IT’S ON

27.03 — 21.04.2012

If You’re The Fifth Caller Or Any Caller At All: Konrad Smolenski Is Alive, Alive!

Last Tuesday morning I sat in Maxwell’s Café in Los Angeles waiting for a call from the artist Konrad Smolenski. He wanted to discuss the possibility of me writing a short text for his upcoming solo exhibition. I was there for about ten minutes, sitting in the last booth in the very back of the restaurant, drinking an ice tea and waiting patiently for both the phone to ring and my breakfast order when he called. During the course of our initial conversation, I jotted down these notes (verbatim) listed below –

In two weeks / 24th March / Poland / Solo show / Main gallery / One piece / The____of radio ? / Sherlock/ Shamrock/ Sheet Rock/ Shit Rock/ Mics are not collecting the sound but producing the sound / Crowd in the street / Sound of the crowd/ Demonstration / Second piece/ Island ? / Head Large / Simplified/ Hood not a head Made out of wood / More than double human size/ Bass speaker / Amplification / Really loud / Vibration

Ironically, it was at this point that Maxwell’s, with its bustling morning crowd collective conversations, as well as the overriding music blaring from the satellite radio station playing throughout became too unbearable for our conversation to move forward. We had to hang up for a moment. I quickly paid and stepped outside. As I turned into the alley a block away to head back home, Konrad called back. With the circumstances now changed, we finished our conversation amidst the slow drone of ambient street sounds barely making a whimper upon my senses and/or the remainder of our discussion.

This is how I initially imagined the installation of “It’s on” would function. At one moment the viewer is aurally assaulted only to escape into another space where, sound-wise, something more controlled and rational is taking place, thus giving him or her some respite. The intriguing thing with Konrad and his overall practice is you never know which space is which for him. Where the peace lies with him, where solace is generated. Could it actually be within the chaos of the utterly aggressive moment or is he like the majority of us, where it lies in the traditional quietude of the subtlest of gestures?

Later that day he sends me computer generated maquettes and working notes/sketches showing the spaces of the gallery with the work placed within. It was then that I realized that I was wrong. There is no safe haven. No rest stop. No transition. Nothing. If I understand this correctly, they both fuck with you. If I understand this correctly, the quietude, or something remotely akin to it, simply ain’t there. Shit, he isn’t like us.

Can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?

The End of Radio – Shellac

When I initially saw the working notes for “The End of Radio” I was immediately reminded (in a formal sense) of the work of Bay Area conceptualist Paul Kos, specifically his “Sound of Ice Melting” piece from 1970. But where Kos was working from the space where contemplation formulates via the slowly melting block of ice placed “center stage” (and the sound that it slowly and quietly produced), Konrad has no center, or his center is the jumble of microphones catching nothing but themselves and as a result, feeding off of each other and turning the results onto the viewer or, I should say, listener. It should also be noted that Kos was working in Northern California at the time, where the after-effects of late 60’s counter-cultural peace and love must have still been in the air. His piece fit perfectly within that social context. Konrad is in contemporary Warsaw and if you google his name, the first image that comes up is the artist, face-masked and bare-chested, clutching a reconfigured gutted missile attached to an amplifier more menacing looking than him. I’m assuming that “The End of Radio”, as well, fits perfectly within the social and political context of his moment, this moment, wherever he plugs it in.

Anyone within the sound of my voice
I’ve got fifty thousand watts of power
Wanna ionize the air

The End of Radio – Shellac

As for that thing in the next space entitled, “It’s Bigger Than Me”, that thing right out of the catacombs of a North Hollywood prop house (ask Konrad about his experiences in nearby Sunland), that thing that looms over you in a way that transcends reality and digs deep into your inner most inner, it looks like it hurts. It looks like it comes from a cheap 1950’s Sci-Fi B-movie, like a thing designed to melt you from the inside out or something. Look for puddles around the base when you enter. I see in the working plans that there’s glass nearby. I hope that there’s tape spread across the exterior of that glass. They say that helps keep it intact when the storm penetrates, sonic or otherwise.

text: Vincent Ramos,
Boss Angeles, 2012

Postscript: As I wrote this, I thought about a lot of sounds of various sorts and kept referring to YouTube for quick reference and inspiration. I will share those sources below. A digital mix tape for the artist and his fans, myself included.

The Doors Hollywood Bowl 68- The Real Don Steele Show, KHJ Boss Radio L.A. Concert Promos
Inside The Dream Syndicate Volume 1 Day of Niagra (1965) / Cale_Conrad_Maclise_Young_Zazeela
American Graffiti Paradise Road
Chair Piece by La Monte Young take two
Cult Classics, Horror films, and old vintage radio’s with sound effects
Annea Lockwood Piano Burning- Part 1-Campbelltown Arts Centre
Forrest J Ackerman- Ackermansion tour
Red Krayola- Former Reflections Enduring Doubt (1967)
1967 Hippie temptation TV documentary
Bruce Nauman – Violin Tuned D.E.A.D. 1968 (extract)
The Real Don Steele -Tina Delgado Is Alive (1966).wmv
Destroy All Monsters (Mike Kelley)
Skip Spence – All come to meet her
Tony Conrad – Four Violins
Paul and Marlene Kos – Lightning (1976)
Chunga’s Revenge – Frank Zappa
Cornelius Cardew & The Scratch Orchestra – The Great Learning (Paragraph 1)
Cruisin’ 1965 – Robert W. Morgan, KHJ, Los (Boss) Angeles

The last announcer plays the last record
The last watt leaves the transmitter
Circles the globe in search of a listener
Can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?
The End of Radio
– Shellac 

Vincent Ramos is an artist based in Los Angeles. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the Hammer Museum where his work will be shown this summer in the first Los Angeles Biennial entitled, “Made in L.A.”.

Partner of the exhibition:
Soho Factory