John Duncan | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

John Duncan 

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JOHN DUNCAN

Audiovisual artist John Duncan, who's from Wichita but is now based in Italy, says he's obsessed with learning what it means to be alive--and in his work he's taken some rather extreme approaches to the subject. For his 1976 performance piece Scare, a response to an attack by a street gang during which he momentarily thought he'd been shot, he donned a cap and mask one night and knocked on the doors of two friends. When each man answered, Duncan pointed a gun at him, fired blanks in his face, and ran off. And for his 1979 piece For Women Only, an all-female audience was shown pornography and then invited into a back room to sexually abuse him. His music isn't quite as visceral--it ranges from pin-drop quiet abstract work with German sound artist Bernhard Günter on the beautifully detailed Home, Unspeakable (Trente Oiseaux) to the more aggressive electronic sounds on his solo Seek (Staalplaat)--but he often gives it thought-provoking context. His 1996 recording The Crackling, which was made at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, frames the electron "as a metaphor for the process of life: isolated, compelled by a system that uses the electron's own energy to force it into a path that leads at a constantly increasing pace to certain destruction--to a point of certain change, of complete resolution and the beginning of a new process." For this rare Chicago gig he'll perform a new work called Palace of Mind, which he describes as a "four-channel live concert based on the cyclical thought patterns of the human mind, or, more specifically, ways that the mind travels in a series of spiraling cycles rather than in a linear or forward-moving direction." Saturday, 10 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago; 773-227-3617.

PETER MARGASAK

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