Last weekend, experimental vocalist and college professor Carmina Escobar brought some of her CalArts students on a camping trip. She recently took a course in wilderness survival and discovered that a lot of the basics of existing outdoors were “completely conceptually related” to improvisational voice art.
Open-air experiments in sound and voice—particularly ones staged in and around Los Angeles—have become the Mexico City native’s calling card. “I have come to really love Los Angeles,” she says. “It’s an incredibly magical place. When you say, like, melting pot, it’s not really that. Everyone keeps their identities as independent beings.”
Just this month, as part of Pacific Standard Time Festival, she restaged the work “Fiesta Perpetua!,” an hours-long intervention in which Escobar projects her voice through a series of oversized megaphones affixed to mobile stages floating in Echo Park Lake, all while a Oaxacan brass band plays along. In the 2014 performance “Massagem Sonora,” Escobar sang into the bodies of people visiting the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro, exploring the topography of their physical forms with her voice and creating unique tones in the process.
This weekend at Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Escobar is leading a participatory performance that borrows from her previous works, although it takes place inside the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Called “Passing Through Dimensions,” the performance begins with Escobar instructing visitors on how to create a musical instrument (a sort of mini-megaphone) using the latest issue of Art Los Angeles Reader. Then participants will be encouraged to explore the space with their voices, much like Escobar does in her own practice. Professional vocalists will also be in attendance to contribute to the soundscape.
“The point of the piece is to go into the dimensions of the paper and the space and your voice,” Escobar says. “In a poetic way…it’s sort of an extension of yourself, putting the cone in your mouth and amplifying the voice.”
It’s not as adventurous as a camping trip, but you won’t have to be checked for ticks afterward either.