Kikú Hibino
Credit: Christopher Andrew

When Chicago multimedia artist Gregory Bae died suddenly in 2021, he left behind a shattered artistic community. Among the grieving was his friend Kikù Hibino, a sound artist whose work has been heard in venues such as the Chicago Cultural Center, Lincoln Park Conservatory, Elastic Arts, Hairpin Arts Center, Hyde Park Art Center, and Experimental Sound Studio. So when the Museum of Contemporary Art unveiled a retrospective of Bae’s work, on display through March 12, 2023, Hibino was invited to perform at the exhibit’s opening. To honor Bae’s unquenchable compulsion to connect artists to one another, Hibino looped in drummer Steven Hess (Locrian, Cleared, Rlyr) and singer-bassist Haruhi Kobayashi (a multimedia artist who goes by Haruhi) to perform a new piece inspired by Bae’s Ex Radios (2019), a ten-inch-by-six-foot collage of discarded instruction manuals and radio antennae. Hibino interpreted the artwork as though it were a graphic score, using it as a blueprint for a long-form ambient composition for synthesizers, drums, bass, and voice. “Instead of focusing on a chord progression,” Hibino says, “we focused on showing multiple chord harmon[ies] all at once and created a rhythmic layout by cutting them up.”

Last month the MCA posted a video of the trio’s debut performance of Ex Radios on its website, though Hibino considers that version a work in progress. At this Empty Bottle show, the trio of Hibino, Hess, and Haruhi will refine their vision to incorporate more vocals and rhythms; during their performance, photographer Liina Raud and visual artist Galina Shevchenko will project an original VJ set. Ex Radios continues to inspire new art years after its creation—much as Bae himself is still catalyzing collaboration after his death.

Kikú Hibino, Steven Hess, and Haruhi performing Ex Radios at the MCA

Kikù Hibino with Steven Hess and Haruhi John Daniel & Norman W. Long and Veronica Anne Salinas open. Tue 12/13, 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $10, 21+