Abstract Nationalism & National Abstraction

- 2001 (flags & scores) / 2014 (musical premiere)

Projects and individual elements in the Abstract Nationalism and National Abstraction series:

Anthems for Four Voices: The Schematic Scores

These scores exist as a suite of 48 prints (one for each composition of four countries) in an edition of 10, created in 2001. They are intentionally abstract scores, yet essential for the creation of the musical scores and all visual components of the series since they lay out the entire concept of the work, including all 48 groups or so-called compositions of four countries in the alphabet, the language shift for each particular anthem, the relationship of each anthem to its specific voice (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass), and the overall temporal structure of the musical composition.

Anthems for Four Voices: The Musical Scores

Selected groups of anthems and assembled compositions are produced with professional composers for specific contexts and situations. The first two compostions - C20 by Craig DeAlmeida and C46 by Aristides Llaneza, were produced for the series premiere at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC in 2014. Some musical scores are designed and printed exclusively for the use of performers and musicians, while others are part of the art work and are meant for a general public.

Flag Fusions

These static images are designed to create actual outdoor and indoor flags used as performance props for recitals and social intervention, as well museum installations. paintings, prints, and digital elements for web pages, sites, and social media platforms.

Flag Modulations

These works include flipbooks, digital animations, video, and other moving image pieces that show different degrees and speeds of transitions and modulations between flags. Some are designed to be seen by themselves, and others used to accompany performances as wall projections.

The Phillips Collection

Beginning with the work’s 2014 premiere at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC’s Embassy Row, the series is constituted in great part by its evolving productions designed for specific contexts and institutions, as well as less institutional social interventions in relevant sites or situations. This part of the project includes musical and non-musical performances that use the choreographies and protocols of national ceremonies as a key art material and source of inspiration. Publications, websites, social media platforms, mapping interfaces, blogs and feeds, forums and digital networks, as well as databases on flags and anthems are also understood to be part of these social and institutional interventions.

HOW TO KNOW: The Protocols and Pedagogy
of National Abstraction

HOW TO KNOW, a new work by Pedro Lasch, frames the 2015 Creative Time Summit: The Curriculum at the Venice Biennale, and is part of a larger series. Social interventions, visual compositions, flag displays, and musical works enable audiences to understand national anthems of other countries in their own language, while their own anthem becomes incomprehensible. For those speaking several languages, or having strong associations with more than one anthem, the experience is even more layered and representative of today’s cultural pluralism.

Each of the forty-eight flags of the installation at the Teatro alle Tese, in the Arsenale, combines four countries, so that all of the world’s countries are represented, in alphabetical order. The flags are set in motion through simple choreographed movements by members of a color guard, here called the curricular guard for the multilingual terms and phrases that appear on their shirts; together the flags and color guard propose a re-envisioned curriculum for All of the World’s Futures. The opening musical intervention is a live voice- ensemble rendition of Composition 20: Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, composed by Craig DeAlmeida and performed by Fran Newark, Erica Dunkle, Cameron Aiken, and Larry Speakman. Conducted by Rodney Wynkoop, this piece presents the anthems of all four countries simultaneously, each sung in the language of the country that follows it alphabetically. The closing intervention includes a new array of anthems, this time presented in a temporal sequence and accompanied by a video projection and participatory elements for the audience to sing along as flags, anthems, and languages transition into each other.


Information on Pedro Lasch's special project at the 2015 Venice Biennale & Creative Time Summit
Video stream of Pedro Lasch Performance (Part 1) at the Venice Biennale & Creative Time Summit can be seen here
More about the Creative Time Summit at the 2015 Venice Biennale here/

On October 27th, 2014 the world premiere of Anthems for Four Voices took shape as a set of musical interventions at the extraordinary galleries and Music Room of The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Produced as part of International Forum (October 25-28, 2014) with its immediate Embassy Row neighborhood in mind, these interventions incorporated live music, video art, flag displays, and other visual props used by the performers as they moved through the iconic building and its world renowned art collection.

Each piece in the series combines four national anthems, arranged for four voices (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass). Each voice is assigned one of the national anthems. The countries' groups of four are determined by their English alphabetical order, as found in the 2001 World Almanac and Book of Facts. The language that each anthem is sung in, however, shifts to that of the country that follows it in the Almanac. So, for example, the United States anthem is sung in Spanish, the official language of Uruguay. For some parts of the project, the voices are allowed an independent flow, so that the audience can appreciate them in their new linguistic and poetic articulation. These sections are called the musical processions. Other parts, called compositions, are created with Lasch's conceptual guidelines by guest composers. Generating a complete musical overlay of complex phonetic and semantic contradictions, these compositions are contemporary works of music in their own right, consistent with the aesthetic and stylistic vision of each composers.

Anthems for Four Voices is part of a larger oevre and social practice series entitled Abstract Nationalism & National Abstraction. Its social interventions, visual compositions, flag displays, and musical performances allow the audience to understand other national anthems in their native language for the first time, while their own anthem becomes incomprehensible. For those speaking several languages, or having strong associations with more than one anthem, the experience is even more layered and representative of today's cultural pluralism. These works incorporate a classical voice recital, yet placing it with the paradoxical establishment of anti-art. The recital is not simply intended to be 'musical' but is rather nurtured by the experimental attitude of avant-garde groups from various decades and regions, as well as their conceptually structured approaches. Channeling the intense emotional and cultural associations we have towards anthems, the premiere performance of these compositions at The Phillips will also invite discussions around the notions of independence, colonialism, (multi)nationalism, migrations, and mapping, all so deeply related to the history of nations and cultures. Other works in the series include video, visual scores, paintings, and various media associated with socially engaged art.