The new Wounded Galaxies Festival to bring avant-garde arts, experimental music to town

Be prepared to be surprised.

The Wounded Galaxies Festival of Experimental Media will launch next week with a mix of music, film and other happenings.

“Wounded Galaxies will bring together a world-class slate of performers and filmmakers, the kind of slate that you would ordinarily have to go to Chicago to see,” said Joan Hawkins, a professor of experimental film at Indiana University.


In an Oct. 9 show at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Matmos will perform experimental music that incorporates found sounds.

The Bloomington festival was created by the non-profit group behind the William S. Burroughs centennial celebration in 2014.

While this isn’t a Burroughs festival per se, it embodies his experimental spirit and draws its name from his book “The Soft Machine.”

“The Burroughs Century, Ltd. is a radical arts organization devoted to making Bloomington, Indiana the Midwest destination for those who love and appreciate experimental art, literature, media and performance,” Hawkins said. “We exist for fans of aggressive, experimental music, for creators of outsider art and for Midwest weirdos.”

Different enough

Hawkins said the event has been organized around “music and film that is just different enough to be interesting.”

Nova Express title

IU Cinema screens “Nova Express” Oct. 8.

Another organizer, Charles Cannon, said he wants to connect the established scene here for improvised, experimental music with what’s going on other places. “This is some of the music that I love,” he said.

Cannon said he listens to experimental music partly because he writes science fiction. “There’s no such thing as alien music; All music comes from Earth, but there is music that is so, so strange, it comes from so far out in left field, that you can listen to it and imagine that it did come from somewhere else.”

Music and multimedia

The Wounded Galaxies Festival will offer an array of concerts with multimedia components.

Jazz bassist James Ilgenfritz will perform a solo show Oct. 8, accompanied by a video from Yuri Zupancic, a painter and art curator of the Burroughs estate. “What the two of them have cooked up, I don’t know,” Cannon said. “I just know it’s going to be crazy.”

The Myth-Science Ensemble will feature an aerialist Oct. 11.

Matmos, performing Oct. 9, makes “musique concrète” from found sounds. For example, on one album, sound is created by the combination of live snails, lasers and the otherworldly strains of a theremin (an electronic instrument controlled by movement toward its antennae). “Even if they told me what they were going to play in concert, it wouldn’t sound like the album anyway. And that really fascinates me,” Cannon said. “I didn’t ask them, because I want to be as surprised by it as everyone else.”

Songwriter Martin Bisi is a self-described “performer, producer and cultural antagonist.” He will play Oct. 10 and speak at the IU Cinema screening of a documentary about BC Studio, his celebrated recording studio.

The festival will close Oct. 11 with Myth-Science Ensemble playing a double bill with Ahleuchatistas. Bloomington poet Tony Brewer will perform sound effects with the jazz ensemble during a concert that also features live art and even an aerial performance.

A preview, other events

In a pre-event book launch, Hawkins will read from her new book of essays, “Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001,” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at Boxcar Books, 408 E. Sixth St. A staged reading with music and film will follow from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Back Door, at 207 S. College Ave.

Chris Kraus

On Oct. 9, Chris Kraus will read from her book on Kathy Acker.

Hawkins said films at the festival will include “an extravagant and extravaganza” adaptation of Burroughs’ “Nova Express.”

Russell Sheaffer, an experimental filmmaker and Ph.D. candidate in Communication and Culture at IU, has curated a program of contemporary film shorts called “Queer Mythologies / Queer Histories.”

When he was approached by Wounded Galaxies, Sheaffer said he “immediately jumped” at the invitation to assemble a film program.

“I found that I kept gravitating towards films that pushed on narratives or images of a queer lineage, ‘queer’ here meaning something that incorporates the LGBT spectrum, of course, but that keeps pushing beyond — sometimes in mythological ways, sometimes in more neatly historical ways, but always in wonderfully strange, distinctly queer ways,” he said.

Wounded Galaxies schedule

  • 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8Nova Express at IU Cinema. This experimental science-fiction film by Andre Perkowski will be shown in its original 180-minute form. The collage of original film, found footage and animation incorporates previously unreleased readings by Burroughs. $3.
  • 9:30 p.m. Oct. 8James Ilgenfritz at The Bishop Bar, 123 S. Walnut St. Doors open at 8 p.m. for a musical show by this jazz bassist, composer and, above all, improviser. Ages 18 and up. $15.
  • 4 p.m. Oct. 9Chris Kraus at the I Fell Building, 415 W. Fourth Street (at South Rogers). The feminist, writer and DIY filmmaker will read from her new book on punk poet Kathy Acker. $5.
  • Russell Sheaffer

    Russell Sheaffer

    6:30 p.m. Oct. 9Queer Mythologies / Queer Histories at IU Cinema. Russell Sheaffer curated this program of contemporary film shorts. Contains mature content. Free but ticketed.

  • 8 p.m. Oct. 9 Matmos at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. Drekka will open this one-of-a-kind concert by experimental electronic music duo M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. $20.
  • 3 p.m. Oct. 10 Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studioat IU Cinema. John Zorn, Herbie Hancock, Brian Eno, Sonic Youth and Afrika Bambaataa all recorded at this Brooklyn studio. Studio co-founder Martin Bisi and film directors Ryan Douglass and Sara Leavitt will speak after the screening. $3.
  • 8 p.m. Oct. 10 Martin Bisi at the Back Door. Bisi will be joined by special guest Invisible Things. Ages 21 and up. $10.
  • 6 p.m. Oct. 11Myth-Science Ensemble and Ahleuchatistas at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. This is a double bill. Local performers will provide support, including Sue Rall, Marty Belcher and Tony Brewer. $20.

Unfortunately, John Zorn’s IU Cinema events and concert with Bladerunner have been canceled. Cyclobe’s musical appearances and a Derek Jarman short film program also have been canceled. For details on events, tickets and refunds, see the Wounded Galaxies website.

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