A performance by Ben Neill and David Wojnarowicz
January 11, 2020
Getty Museum, Los Angeles
ITSOFOMO (In the Shadow of Forward Motion) is a multimedia performance created by artist David Wojnarowicz and composer/musician Ben Neill in 1989. An iconoclastic artist of the 1980s East Village scene, Wojnarowicz is known for his rich use of symbolism in paintings, sculpture, film, photography, collage, and writing. By the late 1980s, he had emerged as a powerful activist for those suffering from AIDS before succumbing to the disease in 1992. Inspired by French theorist Paul Virilio's writings on speed and power, ITSOFOMO was co-conceived with Neill, a composer and inventor of the "mutantrumpet", a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument, who has worked closely with John Cage, La Monte Young, John Cale, Pauline Oliveros, and many other downtown experimenters.
Integrating music, text, and video in a multi-dimensional format, the work embodies the act of acceleration and its sensory manifestations. First presented as a live performance at New York's interdisciplinary performance space The Kitchen in 1989, the piece binds the haunting urgency of Wojnarowicz's words to a sinister, elastic composition by Neill. ITSOFOMO escalates from barely whispered monologues and unnerving textures to a rallying, full-throated charge. It is through this frame that Wojnarowicz addressed the accelerating AIDS crisis and the politics of AIDS in the United States at that moment.
A fierce meditation on history and power, Wojnarowicz delivers his texts in an angry and immediate tone, spat out against the backdrop of Neill's mutantrumpet, percussion, and electronic music. Four videos run simultaneously for the duration of the work, incorporating a wide range of the unflinching imagery typical of Wojnarowicz's visual style that explore timeless themes of American myths, spirituality, sexuality, and death.
"The texts that David Wojnarowicz reads are an antidote to abstraction. Passionate, grounded, and dead-precise, these texts violently reclaim the body by forcing us to experience the visceral reality of space and time. Set against Ben Neill's delicate composed mutantrumpet, percussion, and interactive electronics, ITSOFOMO's forward motion becomes a battle to reclaim the organism of life." - Sylvère Lotringer
For this rare performance, Neill reprises his work, performing alongside the original percussionist Don Yallech, and Wojnarowicz's film imagery and recorded voice. This event falls on the heels of ITSOFOMO's first performance in New York in 25 years at the Whitney Museum, staged in conjunction with their retrospective exhibition David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night in 2018, and the 2019 reissue of the original recording on vinyl by Jabs Recordings, a Los Angeles-based record label run by curator Ethan Swan