Jonathan Reus

Future Traditions in Music

Celestial Fruit on Earthly Ground

Jonathan Reus’s multidisciplinary project points to the complex histories of material knowledge and cultural practices wrapped up in the making of musical instruments. Using the lineages of music tied to the American banjo as a starting point, Reus looks to explore imaginations of new techno-musical futures by remixing excavated pasts.

Jonathan Reus

Mentored by musician and performer Du Yun, Reus is devising Celestial Fruit on Earthly Ground as an ongoing and open interactive artwork. It’s conceived as a living tapestry of visual and sonic traces gathered through artistic collaborations and micro-commissions.

The work focuses on the five-string banjo, a historically complex musical instrument that can be thought of as a map of material-embodied cultures, packed with the stories and ideas of people; their migrations and exchanges. Moving around through an online virtual universe, the visitor navigates and reassembles these elements in a way that mirrors the transmission and transformations of culture itself as a living, moving, and complex entity. Besides the interactive experience, the work also operates as a method and engine for driving future collaborations at the meeting points of musical instruments, technology, and tradition.

At the Forecast Festival in April, Reus will present a film experience documenting the processes of the project’s development during his  and Du Yun’s work-stay in Kumasi, Ghana with crazinisT artisT (Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi), a performance artist who contributed to the corpus as a commissioned performer, collaborator, and cultural mediator.

“This transformative, shapeshifting work could be an inviting platform for encouraging a new model of ethnomusicology and storytelling, by way of microcommissioning and directing funding back to the community,” says Du Yun. “And in particular, because of the inherently complex and challenging topics it touches upon, this project needs the most mentorship from a framework that Forecast could provide. In the current cultural climate, knowledge sharing allows for new models of deep collaboration. Emphasizing cultural and socioeconomic dialogues, this project will engage a wide network of people—lifting within and across communities to ignite and pursue impactful changes rooted in very difficult, complicated, and formidable dynamics that our current world desperately needs to address.”