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Mike Hansen
Artist, Musician

September 01, 2011

Mike Hansen is a working artist, musician, and professor at UOIT. His research and practices revolve around the notion that noise can be a social tool that brings together both art and participants, breaking the boundaries that exist in the world of art. On Saturday, September 3 at Yonge-Dundas Square, Hansen and his ensemble Quartetto Graphic will perform Gyorgy Ligeti’s 1958 graphic composition Artikulation at 2:40 as part of the INTERsection Toronto New Music Marathon.  On Sunday, September 11, Hansen is participating in Items May Shift at the Tree Museum with his sound work Thundering Hoofs. The hat trick is completed at Nuit Blanche on Saturday, October 1 with a twelve-hour performance talk show All Nite Mike at the Tequila Bookroom.

1. Noise

Noise has been my sole purpose for the past couple of decades in both my art practice and my music making. Noise has a bad rap as it is often defined for what it isn’t rather than what it can be. To me, noise is a symphony. Please, take off your iPod and listen as you walk the streets and absorb the soundscape that surrounds us. As George Gershwin said, “I frequently hear music in the heart of noise”. It can be an improviser’s delight, the sounds that surround us disintegrating all a priori coding of our existence. My artworks revolve around the creation of noise, not by me but by the works’ participants. My study and observations have proven that noise can be a tool to create social environments where the beholders no longer judge the generated sounds as noise but as music when they scratch records, walk down wooded trails, or enter a gallery. My latest project Thundering Hoof evolves around the notion of gnothi seauton or “know thyself”. I have created a situation where the participants’ unconscious sounds are amplified, then processed to become exaggerated and played through loudspeakers, returning them to their original source.

2. The gift of gab

For the past twenty-five years I have had the great privilege to discuss art and music with some of our best minds and players. For twenty-two years I hosted various radio programs at a community-based radio station where I had the honour of interviewing some of the great musicians of our time. No, not the U2’s or the Rolling Stones, but the voices that have changed or still are changing the concepts and thinking around the music of our times: from Lux Interior of the Cramps to the progressive innovators of improvised and jazz music such as Christian Marclay. As a youth, the gift of gab was a curse, but as an adult it has been a benefit. I now host Canada’s only television program on the visual arts, Art Sync . So far, I have had the opportunity to discuss the theories and practices of some of Toronto’s leading artists, thinkers, curators and art dealers. I attempt to take an in-depth and incisive exploration of their present and past works. My gift of gab will be put to the test at Nuit Blanche 2011 as I host All Nite Mike, a Carson-influenced, television style talk show where members of the audience become the guests, with surprise appearances, gags, and special prizes for participants. The performance will also be broadcast live, just like television, but through UStream and Facebook.

3. My children

Any of you with kids in your life can hopefully relate to this notion: I can’t get enough of my children. They are an endless source of inspiration. With my eldest’s move into post-secondary education comes the overwhelming flow of ideas, hopes, and dreams. Then there are my youngest; their creativity holds no bounds. Who can question the laughter and insight you can gather from rocket ships for baby chicks and served plates of found items as dinner? I find myself just listening from the other room so as to not disturb the flow of their fantasy. From ages twenty-one to five, their energy revitalizes my thought processes. Or could it be as Picasso said, “good artists copy, great artists steal”? Hmmmm.

4. Record Without a Cover

At the time (1984), I would have never conceived that this record would actually be my first purchase of art from a famous artist. I bought it sight unheard through a brief description in Sounds Choice magazine. It became one of my most important records on my radio program at the time. Then, Christian Marclay was known as turntablist - before hip-hop and plunderphonics -  who used Duchampian, as well as Cagian, theory to produce musical improvisations through the use of pre-recorded music. Record Without a Cover was simply that - a record that arrived in the mail without a cover, intentionally scratched and damaged with an improvisation embedded in its grooves. The work has been an inspiration for me beyond my wildest dreams. It regenerated the teenage turntable follies that my friends thought were crazy, and brought me to the notion of noise as a valuable sound source. Marclay’s early works investigated noise through silence referencing sound through paintings, fabrics, unplayable instruments, speakers as birdhouses and a reel-to-reel tape player unfurling what seems to be an endless virgin spool of magnetic tape to name a few. I interviewed him on my radio program, Whynot Jazz, and we discussed the disconnect that existed between his art and music practices. Now museums invite him to perform whenever he shows. The winner of the Venice Biennale’s 2011 Golden Lion, Marclay’s The Clock, brings us a new definition of noise. Referring back to my interview with him, Marclay stated, “I hope you have it in a cover.” I replied, “It always has been.”

5. The Ford Family Circus

Could any one family be more screwed up and full of itself than the Lastmans, I thought. Mel was the epitome of ridiculous, from outlandish statements to handshakes with the Hell’s Angels. Who could have imagined that the grandstanding of the Ford brothers would surpass the Lastman days? Not one, but two self-obsessed idiots with a crew of characters running amuck with our municipal government. In one foul swoop they have destroyed the city’s transit system and equated great literature with Boston Crème donuts and Double Doubles. Setting the tone for this administration began with the mayoral inauguration and their guest of honour, Don Cherry, whose remarks insulted a large sector of the city. Wow, where do ideas like converting the Islands into a bordello, developing a section of downtown into a giant shopping mall with the world’s largest Ferris wheel, a gigantic flagpole, and the administration’s homophobia come from? They have alienated the poor by eliminating the hope of public transit through the cancellation of Transit City and the promotion of the car. Hell has a new meaning: The Ford Family Circus with a side of gravy. I would like to laugh at their folly if their actions weren’t so damning to our city.



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