2/24: “POLONIUM” performed in CSUF New Music Festival

February 12, 2016

My video projection POLONIUM, a collaboration with composer Pamela Madsen will be performed on Feb 24 as part of the 15th Annual CSUF New Music Festival, along with works by Pauline Oliveros and Arvo Part. I spent two weeks filming at Marie Curie’s laboratories in Paris, and love this collaboration! If you’re in town hope you can make it. Divan Consort’s Fureya Unal and Mira Khomik will perform the Estonian composer Arvo Part’s Fratres and the Ukrainian composer Valentyn Silvestrov Post Sciprtum Sonata, plus Luminosity Pamela Madsen’s work Polonium for violin, piano, with video by Quintan Ana Wikswo! with works by Dominique de Williencourt and Ken Walicki, with CSUF faculty flutist Jean Ferrandis performing Yuko Uebayashi and CSUF New Music Ensemble performing works by Pauline Oliveros, Hildegard von Bingen and Morton Feldman!

Quintan Ana Wikswo’s installations of projected film, video and photography explore the chemistries of expired and altered film stocks, infrared, and alternative optics and lenses.  From Poland to Paris, a visionary young chemist transcends the frontiers of her era, redefining physics, chemistry, and the role of women in science and society. Her pursuit of radioactive elements brings her as close as humanly possible to both creation and destruction – a legacy of her work that continues to resounds across time and space.

When composer Pamela Madsen asked me to create the films for her new opera, I began a journey that led me through foggy November days in the Paris laboratories and gardens of Marie Curie.  There is a complexity in being in her laboratory – it’s a deeply nourishing and somehow addictive experience to spend these days so near to a woman whose ideas triumphed over such absurdly enormous barricades of scientific and societal ignorance. Amidst her things, amidst her kind of revolution, there is a focused ferocity that’s still palpable. It felt like her own force of will gifted upon upon a hostile, frightened, intimidated and ignorant society.

Her laboratories are located a few blocks from the Sorbonne and the Pantheon and Luxembourg Gardens, on the left bank of Paris. Walking over to the Curie Institute, the buildings become lower and smaller, the streets less grand, the walkways more modest. There is more purposefulness and less posturing. There are fewer signs on the walls testifying to liberty and greatness and revolution, and more postings of servicable directions to physics and chemistry facilities.

Around the corner, and her laboratories are tucked behind a wrought iron fence with climbing roses, and they are three low-slung, pale brick buildings – no marble columns here. It is the state school versus the private ivy league. It is the triumph of the underdog: what can be done, at great personal cost, making so much from so little.

For all of us who follow our passion amidst despair about the resources at our fingertips – Marie Curie is the icon to study. Underestimated, with a late start, unevenly educated, working as a nanny until her mid-twenties, an awkward yet self-possessed immigrant and foreigner on French soil, an interloper at every stage of French male scientific culture, an accidentally transgressive individual far beyond the strictures of her era, indominitable…she still lives on as one of the foremost visionaries in human civilization.

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