Roberto Carlos Lange & Kristi Sword
Ballroom Marfa presents Kite Symphony, a multidisciplinary exhibition by Roberto Carlos Lange and Kristi Sword. The project features a newly commissioned film, outdoor composition and installation, a series of drawings, sculpture, animation, and a special Earth Day performance. Sound is the throughline between these diverse elements of this long-term project. Lange is a musician (widely known as Helado Negro) and Sword is a visual artist, and Kite Symphony is an extension of their collaborative practice where they create work at the intersection of music, performance, and visual art.
Invited by Ballroom in March 2020 for a production trip for Kite Symphony, then a short film with a live score, Lange and Sword found themselves in West Texas at the onset of a global pandemic and mandates to socially isolate. The artists elected to remain in Marfa and with Ballroom’s support, extended their trip into a six-month residency. Their experience was the catalyst for Ballroom Sessions—The Farther Place, a residency program developed to support cross-disciplinary artists and musicians. As their time in Marfa extended Kite Symphony expanded into a full-scale exhibition, including new installation works, a community sound piece, performance, and four new experimental compositions released through Ballroom’s Bandcamp. Pitchfork called this album a “free-flowing collage that doubles as a snapshot of the project’s sprawl” and named it one of the top 20 ambient albums of 2020. The album features contributions from noted local musicians Jeanann Dara and Rob Mazurek, led by Sword’s meditative and meticulous visual scores.
Guided by the wind and inspired by their day-to-day experiences with the local landscape, Lange and Sword centered a practice of listening to produce new work. Their listening took many forms: they utilized meditative practices to tune their bodies into the sonic environment; they employed field recording to capture and amplify ephemeral or barely audible sounds like wings of insects and the wind itself; and they launched an open call to the community to hear the sounds of the town through the ears of locals. Lange recounts, “When you have your headphones on and a microphone pointing out to the expanses surrounding Marfa you’re surprised with the density of the air. It’s like a big blanket wraps your head and you’re invited into another world.”
The exhibition at Ballroom features an impressionistic film, which explores the imperceptible forces that shape the West Texas landscape. The video documents the artists’ observations and experiments with wind and light interacting with kites, hand-made mylar instruments, found objects, and native plant materials. Lange and Sword turn their gaze upwards in Star Scores, a piece of visual music that reflects on the region’s dark skies through hand-made animations of galaxies orbiting, multiplying, and expanding through an imaginary celestial space. Adjacent are Sword’s ink drawings of rhythmic and repetitive brush marks, revealing a continuous evolution of a landscape in constant motion. Ballroom’s courtyard will be transformed into a listening space where Lange presents a new sonic installation composed of the sounds collected from the community. Taken together, all of these newly commissioned works heighten the audience’s sense of space by attuning us to expansive new sonic geographies, helping us to listen in diverse ways, and reminding us of our presence in a living world.
On Earth Day, April 22, 2022, Ballroom will host a day of performances with Roberto Carlos Lange and several of his musical collaborators. The show will feature live renditions of Star Scores, a performance of Kite Symphony, Four Variations with a live ensemble, and performances by several friends of the artists, with the full lineup to be announced in early 2022.
Kite Symphony is organized by Sarah Melendez, Ballroom Marfa music curator.
Kite Symphony, Four Variations
Kite Symphony, Four Variations is new music from Roberto Carlos Lange based on graphic scores created in collaboration with visual artist Kristi Sword.
Guided by Sword’s dynamic and rhythmic graphic notations–visual representations of music through symbols outside the world of traditional music notation–these four music compositions freely explore the lightness of ephemeral moments in the elements, encouraging the listener to meditate on their immediate surroundings.
Lange joined forces with electro-acoustic composer Rob Mazurek, and violist Jeanann Dara, on these pieces using a variety of collaborative sound-making techniques. The new compositions were recorded at Marfa Recording Company while Lange and Sword were in residence in Marfa working on Kite Symphony.
Collaborating during a pandemic proved to be challenging. Social distancing forced Lange to experiment with different modes of creating and recording sound with Sword, Dara, and Mazurek. During in-person, socially-distanced improvisations, Lange asked the musicians to reflect on the visual scores and respond to questions related to their experiences in the landscape. He used the collaborative responses as source material for these compositions.
Lange describes the Four Variations as a collection of impressionistic sound pieces and invites the listener to open their ears to the sky, the sound of cacti, and the feeling of the wind on their skin.
Twenty-five percent of proceeds will benefit Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to low-income residents.
Roberto Carlos Lange
Roberto Carlos Lange, Helado Negro (1980) is a South Florida native, born to Ecuadorian immigrants and based in Brooklyn. Exploring Latinx identity, and pluralistic sensibilities, his music as Helado Negro is lyrically personal and politically avant-pop. In 2019 he was awarded a United States Artists Fellow in Music and also the recipient of a 2019 Grants to Artists award in Music from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Helado Negro has presented work in diverse venues from clubs to cultural organizations including the Wexner Center, Columbus, OH; The Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA.; Margulies Warehouse, Miami, FL; Club 2 Club, Turin, Italy; Vive Latino, Mexico City; the Perez Art Museum, Miami, FL; and the Museum of Modern Art, NY.
Kristi Sword (1980) is a visual artist working in small scale kinetic sculpture and drawing. Entry into her sculptural work was through her formal jewelry training. She received her B.F.A. from the Savannah College of Art and Design and her M.F.A. from SUNY New Paltz both in Metal and Jewelry. Kristi has shown her artwork at the 92nd St Y in Tribeca as well as the NARS Project Space in Brooklyn. She has made album cover artwork for Helado Negro and Warm Ghost and has completed artist residencies at the Oregon College of Art and Craft and at Marble House.
Kite Symphony is made possible by the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Texas Commission on the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; Lebermann Foundation; Virginia Lebermann & Family; City of Marfa; Ballroom Marfa Board of Trustees; the Ballroom Marfa International Surf Club; and Ballroom Marfa members.
Special thanks to Valerie Arber, Cashiola Bros., Jeanann Dara, Meghan Gherety, Virginia Lebermann, Minerva Lopez, Gory Smelley, Derek Walin, Michael Wallace. And to our friends at The Chinati Foundation, Judd Foundation, Marfa Public Radio.