One of the things I learned about Germans while in Berlin is that they love their hardware. While two of the most important music software companies on the planet, Ableton and Native Instruments, make their home in Berlin, just about everyone I met on my trip there earlier this year had at least one piece of gear that was a source of great pride. Laptop jams came into vogue around 2000 when seeing someone on stage with one was a novelty, so at this point, performing with software is taken for granted. So what gets an audience’s attention these days? Cool hardware, and not just a couple of hot-rodded speak and spells, but lots of it, piles of it.
Groupshow is a Berlin-based electronic performance collective trio that is known for extended improvisations using tables full of vintage electronic gadgets and gizmos. For CTM 2010, Groupshow put on an extended performance accompanying Andy Warhol’s film Empire. Or perhaps the film accompanied Groupshow since Empire is eight hours long and consists of a single shot of New York’s Empire State building made from 6 hours and 36 minutes of 24 fps footage slowed down to play at 16 fps. Both the film and Groupshow’s extended performance consider the issue of art as process, and as such, it was an ideal event to drop in on, not necessarily to sit through. That said, the members of Groupshow were able to coax a lot of interesting sound from their collection, and the result was something that just couldn’t possibly come from software.