With 100+ instruments, artists Michael Parker and Wesley Hicks create dynamic fluid performances that can all at once be cacophonous, playful, and triumphant. The ceramic instruments built in collaboration between the artists come in sizes from smaller then a lime to larger than a watermelon. These instruments produce a fluid and amorphous sound much like the chirps of birds and the calls of whales. The intuitive-to-play instruments are used by volunteer performers. The performers harness these sounds as a collective voice, one that can be spread over vast spaces, filling them with sound. The performers act as radical cartographers, navigating and claiming the performance space as their own temporary autonomous zone. Notable performance venues include the Getty Center, Hammer Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum, Pomona College Art Museum, and Southern Exposure.

The performers interact with the art and architecture at the Getty Center

The instruments are ceramic and are glazed vibrantly in red, blue, and purple. Each is a unique shape and size, modeled independently of one another. The shapes are based off of Micheal’s citrus juicers and melon sculptures from his project “Juicework” at Human Resources. The project that led to the instruments’ development. We gave them the name Juicerina, as it was a hybrid of the form of a juicer and function as an ocarina – which Wesley has been making since he was 14. Juicerinas are capable of playing graceful pitch bends that are bird like or whale like depending on the size of the instrument. They do not easily play familiar melodies as the instrument changes pitch fluidly with gentle motions of the hand, instead of the specific and rigid pitches found on most flutes. The construction of the instruments makes them both democratic and intuitive to learn and to play, with most players capable of museum quality performance on the instrument within ten minutes.

At the Getty Center we set up several events involving the use of these instruments. To start, performers gathered at the front of the museum, performing a cacophony and then slowly separating from one another, walking through the interstitial and liminal spaces of the museum’s exterior. The second major performance started with one or two performers in each of the 60+ galleries of the museum. The score calls for gestural conversations with specific works of art – those carrying references to sound and labor with performers improvising what they felt were appropriate sounds given their instruments’ range. The performance finished with a re-gathering at the central fountain and performing a final chaotic cacophony of sound.

Working together with Michael we made over 80 Juicerinas for the Getty Center performance. They are democratically played by anyone, even those unfamiliar with playing an instrument. These pitch fluid instruments were given simple, text based scores guiding the performers. Various interactions included joining in with the birds in 17th century french tapestries, calling out from liminal spaces between museum stairways, and forming a cacophony of sound as the +80 performers joined together on the front steps of the museum.

The Hammer score was printed on the museum visitor maps. It is notable for its simplicity and poetic ways of noting intent.

Throughout the performances with the Juicerinas various unique scores have been used. Each venue receives a unique score that is designed around the physical characteristics of the space and the general tone that we want the work to focus on. This is greatly effected by the institutions and the kind of space the performances are in. Over time the scores have zoned in on specific language and have been dramatically simplified. A mixture of simple language and poetic gesture work well for giving commands and describing creative intent.

Here is one of the demo videos explaining how the instruments work.

The first Juicerina performance at Human Resources