Eric John Eigner – Musician, Visual Artist

I grew up in a variety of cities, scattered throughout the mid-west and south.  Throughout that time, and as far back as I can remember, I have always used art as a way to express myself, and moreover, as a mode of grounding myself. My tools in this pursuit are the drum set, the paintbrush, the camera, and the toolbox.

As a young child, I found ways of drumming long before I had been given my first drum set. As the story goes, at two-years-old, I would open each kitchen drawer, using them as stairs, and would climb onto the counter to pull out pots, pans, pie tins, and wooden spoons, which I would use to bang out my first rhythms.   Retrospectively, these were my first moments creating art!  That moment held many of the ideas and concepts, which later formed my thinking as an artist and performer.  As a musician, my instrument is the drum set, played in both Extended and Traditional formats. I am a drummer who does not need to rely upon the use of sticks and drums to get my point across, though I certainly love to incorporate them into the fold of what I do. I also incorporate the use of fireworks and chains, 50cent horns and elephant calls.  Additionally I play Tabletop Percussion, Electric Bass, Bass Clarinet and Electronics.

While music would become the medium in which I could express myself sonically, my passion for the tactile world of color and image became a necessary part of my process and aesthetic vision.  Living in highly populated urban environments, with small apartments, where all your neighbors are only a ceiling or floor away, as a creative person, I needed to find alternative outlets of expression when playing a set of drums was not an option.  Delving into the visual arts allowed me stay rooted in my thought process, to continue working.  The visual arts really become a necessary vehicle for my artistic survival.  I began to understand certain aspects of myself through working visually that further helped to develop my insights into music. In my early adult years, steeped in work for theatre and dance companies, performance art, rock, jazz, funk, and experimental bands, as well as street theatre, I worked as both a visual artist and musician.  

I have released three CD’s as the leader of my ensemble, Mysterium, on Eavesdrop Records, a label I set up as a platform for contemporary work. Mysterium is a project designed to function as a worldwide bridge-way to isolated improvising artists, of multiple mediums, cultures, disciplines, genders and generations, to come together and engage in new work. Due to the rotation of concept and personnel, it has a built in mechanism to keep things new and fresh, to push and challenge those involved, throwing them into new territories and experiences, creating a more expansive and visceral work.  Mysterium – An Electric Soundpainting Septet, is the third and latest configuration in my ongoing Mysterium Continuum.  Its aim is to harness the vibrancy, creativity and spirit of improvised music into and through the compositional process.  This is achieved using Soundpainting, a universal live composing sign language.  My work has been acclaimed in The Wire, Signal to Noise, Cadence, and All About Jazz, in addition to many others. I have performed in New York at the Knitting Factory, Tonic, The Stone, Roulette, Frederick Loewe Theatre, Brecht Forum, The Cave, and Zebulon, as well as a number of other venues, both national and international alike.

I work in a number of other diverse projects and perform with the Walter Thompson Orchestra, the New York Soundpainting Orchestra, ZAHA, a duet project with composer/guitarist Bruce Holmberg, the John Nickels Band and the Michael Wagner Quartet.  I haveplayed with Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton, Reuben Radding, Kenny Wollesen, the CAVEnsemble, Shinichi Momo Koga, Mark Stewart, Sabir Mateen, Steve Swell, Daniel Carter, Nate Wooley, Matt Lavelle, Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar and poet Steve Dalachinsky. In addition, I’ve played in a number of other diverse bands, from Steve Albini produced Pillow Theory, the eclectic Balkan thrash band The Trophy Wives, to Earthdriver, a band made up of a wide variety of international talent who join forces to create a unified musical and social statement.  Additionally I  performed with the french horn quartet Genghis Barbie, in the NY River to River Festival, with composer John King and Choreographer Yoshiko Chuma.

In addition, I am heavily involved in creating a solo language as an improvising composer for the drum set, a primary point of interest and development for me.  A drummer for over 20 years, this is my greatest love and contribution.  Still further I am working as a solo sound artist where I play what I have dubbed, Table Top Percussion, a collection of small Toys and sound generators, both musical and non musical in design, things I’ve built and assembled, coupled with guitar stomp boxes.  

Within my musical life, I continue to paint and construct visual work.  As a visual artist, I have been commissioned to paint a number of large-scale public murals in addition to having frequent exhibitions for works on canvas and found materials.  Further, I work in the medium of collage, and have created large-scale works for public spaces. Moreover, I created a two-year body of work, over 400 chalk paintings, directly on NYC sidewalks in several different locations of the city, including my home borough of Brooklyn.  As a major goal of my work is to make art accessible to the greatest number of people, crossing socio-economic and cultural lines, I chose to make public spaces my gallery.  For me, art is something that should be accessible to all people, created through boundary-less exploration of materials and space. By producing work in public, there were no restrictions placed upon who could view the work.

These works further led to large-scale paintings, works on canvas, wall, and paper, as well as a wealth of smaller works; pieces for pen and ink, and scratchboard.  Although my visual work is no longer produced primarily in a public domain, my goal continues to be to create work that promotes critical dialogue, pertaining to everyday life aesthetics. My work has been exhibited in galleries, restaurants, nightclubs, and event spaces over the years, in both solo and group contexts.

In keeping with my belief that art should be accessible to all people, I am interested in the functional aspects of art, as they allow more people to share in their aesthetics.  In functional art, the canvas can be anything, and thus, individuals can more readily access and engage in the process of art.  While future ambitions continue to include the canvas, I have plans to transform my line paintings into woven rugs, stained glass, and large landscape works utilizing stone, earth, flowers, sun, rain and wind.  Through each of these channels, I can explore new challenges in relation to materials and situation, resulting in the ability to access multiple areas of myself, simultaneously reaching more people, both in and outside of the more traditional spaces of art.

I am a a 2010 NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) fellow in Music/Sound and am featured on their time capsule 5 CD box set, “The NYFA COLLECTION – 25 Years of New York New Music,” released on Innova Records.  I am also a member of the international Soundpainting community and have attended Soundpainting Think Tank Residencies in Woodstock, New York and Tours, France.  I'm currently working on two solo releases; one for solo drums, the other for tabletop percussion, toys, sound generators and analogue stomp boxes.  Additionally I am an avid, "hack photographer" (self dubbed) which at it's core means I take a lot of photos with inexpensive equipment.  These photos stand alone as images but will also be incorporated into my paintings in time.