Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Andrew takes a field trip! Lost Origins Gallery (Visualizing Fugazi exhibit)

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to the latest episode of Wednesdays With Andrew, your weekly overdose of punk (and punkish!) rock.

Today we're going a bit off brand...instead of our normal podcast/radio episode, I am trying my hand at a bit of long(ish)-form journalism! Read my 'article' below and make sure to follow along with the  recommended playlist, featuring tunes from Fugazi, some old Syrian priests, and more!

Action. Reaction. Action: Visualizing Fugazi

Nestled in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, a small art gallery is empowering artists and free thinkers through its engaging exhibitions. Named ‘Best New Gallery’ just this month by Washington City Paper, Lost Origins Gallery is a community- and arts-focused space that is gaining a lot of attention.

Action. Reaction. Action: Visualizing Fugazi, the current exhibit on display, drew me in with its promise of a unique, data-driven perspective of the band that shaped DC’s music scene for years to come. From the large family tree displaying Fugazi’s interconnectedness with other bands, to the bubble chart highlighting their impact on local activism and fundraising, not to mention the treasure trove of archival items including never-before-seen photographs, zines and other memorabilia, Action. Reaction. Action: Visualizing Fugazi certainly proved to be a memorable visual and auditory experience.

Owner and curator Jason Hamacher, imbuing an effortless openness and warmth, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give me a private tour of the exhibit, and walk me through the inception story of Lost Origins. 

A space for creativity and empathy

Lost Origins Gallery's stated mission is to inspire community and understanding by providing a space for expression, ideas, art, and culture.  True to that mantra, Jason has created a space where artists and thinkers are unburdened from the practical monetary factors of promoting new content, allowing them to focus solely on their craft. By eliminating revenue expectations and taking a smaller percentage of total sales, Jason feels he is “encouraging experimentation” and providing an environment that fosters “creativity, supportiveness, and most of all, respect.”

Since its creation 2 years ago, the gallery has hosted a far ranging collection of exhibits, seemingly not having any rules of participation....from visual arts to performance art and community think tanks around the importance of STEM, Lost Origins doesn't discriminate, so long as new ideas are being shared, discussed, argued and celebrated.
If you crave a snack during a trip to the Gallery, Jason also happens to rent the first floor of the building to Mount Desert Island Ice Cream…a business that is managed by fellow DC punks Brian Lowit (Dischord label manager) and Melissa Quinley (from the band Soccer Team).  

Driven by a spirit of adventure

According to Hamacher, the concept of  ‘Lost Origins’ can be traced back to the mid 90s, when a younger Jason was drummer (and a damn good one!) of legendary DC hardcore bands Battery and Frodus, while also making a name for himself in the world of photography. He used the Lost Origins moniker as a sort of umbrella term under which all his creative pursuits lived.

After a series of life-changing personal and professional tragedies, Jason decided to quit music and explore the world, and through these travels gained a deeply passionate interest in antiquities and cultural heritage. This led him to create a tagline for his Lost Origins brand, Exploring the Past to Change the Future. Jason explains: “We all share common origins but we tend to lose sight of our similarities and focus on our differences. Through my music, recordings, writing, and now gallery, I strive to focus on highlighting cultural art and ideas that can unify and inform.”

His globe trotting adventures culminated in 2005, when he traveled to Syria to hunt down an ancient Orthodox traditional vocal chant; a sacred hymn that has been carefully preserved and passed down by a small group of religious leaders in Aleppo since the dawn of Christianity.

With the support of the Syrian government and local Orthodox leaders, Jason successfully created the first public recording of this historically valuable and hallowed chant, while collecting over 15,000 photographs and capturing a unique moment in Syria's period of pre-war modernization in the process. Editor's recommendation - you can hear a couple examples of Jason's recordings in the accompanying playlist!

Through this years long adventure, Jason nurtured several important relationships at Smithsonian and Library of Congress, which would ultimately prove an important jumping board for the inception of Lost Origins Gallery.

Visualizing Fugazi

One of the most notable aspects about the gallery is its completely unintentional genesis, which stands in stark contrast to the deliberate layout of the space. Through a series of business related events, Jason suddenly found himself as proprietor of a large three level building smack dab in Mount Pleasant...and coincidentally, right around that time, his old tour mate from the Battery days just so happened to need somewhere to showcase his traveling photo exhibit, Still Screaming, in conjunction with Battery's reunion show. Serendipity coquettishly tipping the scales of fate, Jason became suddenly aware what this space truly meant; a cross section of all his inspiring endeavors, and an opportunity to provide an outlet for like minded adventurers and creators to share their visions within an intimate yet welcoming community.

What better space to share a visually powerful and dynamic exhibit showcasing the impact that Fugazi left on our city? The against-the-grain vision and DIY ethic that is so deeply embedded within Fugazi’s legacy is mirrored in the trajectory of the Lost Origins story...and indeed an ethos that embodies the exhibition’s creator as well.

Visual data maven Carni Klirs is no stranger to the D.C. punk scene, having played in many important DC punk bands. When time came to decide on a thesis for his Information Visualization masters from Maryland Institute College of Art, Carni wanted to “focus on a story I could tell authentically” and one reflecting his belief that “there is more to the DC punk scene than just the music.”  So, in an effort to find a project that was at the intersection of his two interests (music and data/design), Carni decided to show the world Fugazi by the numbers.
Through a grueling 200 hours of data research, primarily sourced from Fugazi’s own meticulously kept records, Carni pieced together large format data visualizations that illustrate the elaborate networks of connections that the band created, whether touring the world or headlining benefit concerts and protests in the local area.

This uniquely stunning display is an attestation to the wide-reaching and lasting impact Fugazi had, and continues to have, in local, national and global music and cultural scenes.

Demystifying Fugazi

The exhibition also features never-before-seen visual materials curated by archivist John Davis—fliers, correspondence, photographs, fanzines, and more—that further express the meaning of a band that was about more than just music. The photographs in particular provide a rarely seen side to the band that, according to Jason, "help to round out the lore and mythology surrounding Fugazi...providing the viewer with a more intimate, almost mundane, look” at the guys. Jason says “My favorite image is the band loading in for the iconic Lorton Prison show. As a musician, there’s nothing more mundane than load-in. Seeing an amazing image of FUGAZI loading as inmates are removing a Christmas tree through the same door speaks volumes.”

Action. Reaction. Action: Visualizing Fugazi is saying adieu to Lost Origins Gallery at the end of this weekend, so if you are a fan of DC's most notorious post-punk band, make sure you go THIS Saturday or Sunday (May 18th-19th) to get a unique visual take on Fugazi's rippling effects on DC's cultural and musical scenes. 

For more information about the exhibit and Carni's full body of work, check out his site here.

Check out upcoming events at the Lost Origins Gallery, here.

ALSO, come politely mosh with me at the Swedish Embassy on May 20, where Jason and his new band Zealot R.I.P. will be participating in the Swedish Metal Story event!

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