ITSOFOMO at the Whitney Museum, 2018

ITSOFOMO (In the Shadow of Forward Motion) is a multimedia performance collaboration created by artist David Wojnarowicz and composer/musician Ben Neill in 1989. Integrating music, text, and video in a multi-dimensional format, the work embodies the act of acceleration and its sensory manifestations. It is through this frame that Wojnarowicz addressed the accelerating AIDS crisis and the politics of AIDS in the United States at that moment. ITSOFOMO is a fierce meditation on history and power, performed in 2018 at the Whitney Museum for the first time in over 20 years.

First presented as a live performance at The Kitchen in 1989, the piece binds the haunting urgency of Wojnarowicz’s words to a sinister, elastic composition by Neill. Their gestures circle and intertwine with a telepathic energy, revealing the deep affinity shared by these two artists. Joined by the original percussionist Don Yallech, the group moves with the agility and purpose of a rock band while maintaining the rigor and empathy of their conceptual force. ITSOFOMO escalates from barely-whispered monologues and unnerving textures to a rallying, full-throated charge. Wojnarowicz delivers his texts in an angry and immediate tone, spat out against the backdrop of Neill’s ominously measured mutantrumpet, percussion and electronic music. Four videos run simultaneously for the duration of the work, incorporating a wide range of imagery typical of Wojnarowicz’ visual style. An uncanny chorus is provided by samples from the National Hollerin’ Contest, whose strangulated wails and earthly yodels provide a strange counterpoint to Wojnarowicz’ passionate performance.

“The texts that David Wojnarowicz reads are an antidote to abstraction. Passionate, grounded, and dead-precise, these texts violently reclaim the body by forcing us to experience the visceral reality of space and time. Set against Ben Neill’s delicately composed mutantrumpet, percussion, interactive electronics, and Southern American ethno-music, ITSOFOMO’s forward motion becomes a battle to reclaim the organism of life.”

Sylvere Lotringer

Originally recorded in 1991, a new LP/digital recording is now available through Jabs Recordings. This is the first vinyl pressing of ITSOFOMO, the 2 x LP includes two new unreleased tracks: an instrumental version of the climactic final section THE COLLAPSE OF THE ILLUSORY ONE TRIBE NATION and a new remix by Ben Neill, ITSOFOMO Septimal Dub. Printed in an edition of 500 copies with a gatefold sleeve and an essay by Sylvère Lotringer, a portion of the proceeds from this LP will be donated to Visual AIDS.