The Music and Sculpture Installation of Edem Elesh
Edem Elesh, the multi-faceted artist behind Selah, is a traditionalist in the most modern ways of being. Drawing from an adventurous, international spirit, he is something of an explorer seeking after the fountain of youth. This fountain is not the peculiar prize of Pizarro, the quest for immortality. The youth Selah evokes is literally the beginning, the timeless, the elemental component that lies at the heart of human endeavor. It is perfectly fitting that he is an established visual artist in addition to his musical background, in fact it was a mentor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena that encouraged him to branch out in his investigation of this elusive spring.
The development of Selah grew like an ocean swell becoming wave – the elements of nature, the context of childhood experience in a different culture, the discovery of painting as a way to reach into his own observations and relate the symbols and ideas that drew ever closer to a meaningful center, and his involvement with the band Drowning Pool which knew a fair measure of success in Los Angeles during the 1980′s. His group was an underground darling, an ensemble that performed with other avant garde groups such as the Cocteau Twins and The Fall. He performed at some of the most legendary venues in the city – the Anti Club, the Roxy and the Whiskey.
As Elesh explains, music is jealous of art, and as progress with his painting accelerated he found is subject expressed itself in color, gesture, and a coalesced sense of oneness. Increasingly he found himself locating, seeking after key source elements in consciousness, in perception, and mirrored in the natural world. Finding the world phantasmagoric, he contemplates it as the result of an inescapable flaw that can’t be avoided – the subjectivity of human experience. He finds in the shade of the branches of human knowledge seeds which tie us together, that lead to a cohesion that is easy to miss when we view human work strictly from the perspective of achievement and competition. When we look at the seeds, the potential, and their growth – literally seeing the forest for the trees – we discover that human community, the sound of the collective, the rise and fall of spirit in response to need and changes in the times – all are evidence of a characteristic human gift that can be easily missed in a society that objectifies the successful and solitary risers.
Two elements combined to make the Selah project possible. One was his introduction to Logic recording software (and the relevant advances in technology) that suddenly enabled an artist who had grown accustomed via the visual arts to work on his own to revisit music with the same independence and tool set. Secondly an exhibit afforded the opportunity to create an installation. The two gave birth the Selah, an evolvement of his collective experiences and a sort of crystallization of his investigations to date. The installation involves a total environment with walls softened by canvas, a space to sit and introspect, and a light sculpture called Satori that provides a fixed object to stare at. He hopes that the sculpture will assist in helping to clear the mind, by serving as a point of reference. The light installation is a flat, two-dimensional rendering of a three-dimensional cube. He finds reflections of artist Robert Irwin, and also Japanese heraldry with an implicit statement that such geometric forms demonstrate the experiential dimension as a spiritual element. Again, a revisitation of perception as a shaper of the whole, the subjective contributing to modify and change the collective, ‘pure’ nature of things.
The music is elemental, dreamy, and presented in a senses-stimulating 5.1 Surround Sound. It is woven and layered with samples, each crafted and arranged by the artist. It is a sound that can draw the spirit out of the body to drift for a time above the map of human language and idea, a soundtrack for contemplation and rest from the unconscious efforts we can place into structures that, ultimately, are more independent of ourselves than we even dream. From the statement for the project we learn that the name Selah is taken from ancient Hebrew, and occurs innumerable times in the Psalms to denote an interlude in singing voice when the instruments perform alone in order to reflect. He draws a connection to a very ancient traditional practice in India, where in an annual ceremony vocal sounds transmitted from person to person are recited. These sounds are considered pre-speech, the earliest form of human communication, more akin to birdsong and thus stemming from a place before ethnic, racial or religious base. We have in Selah the ongoing quest of an artist to pursue, deep in the wilds of human life and perfectly in tune with the multifarious conditions of urban conditions in Los Angeles, his own vision of a fountain of youth from which hope springs eternal.