It’s a weird subculture. I mean people who make something out of almost anything, only that something remaining insistently the same. In Ken Butler’s case: string instruments.
Butler invents experimental musical instruments from diverse materials including tools, sports equipment, and household objects. Violins out of axes, machine guns, tennis rackets, knives, toothbrushes, umbrellas etc.; cellos out of metal detectors, …. ; you got the point.
An artist and musician, Ken Butler calls his creations Hybrid musical instruments with which he ”explores the interaction and transformation of common and uncommon objects, altered images, and sounds”.
He associates himself with the idea of bricolage, essentially improvising with whatever is “at hand”, a combination of a luthier, a maker of stringed instruments, and a bricoleur.
Bricolage is nothing new. As Butler notes: visual artists often refer to it when they construct or create a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available. What’s special is the obsessiveness that often characterizes the activity, and to my mind, brings these artists, Butler included, closer to ”outsider art” or ”l’art brut”, of which the repetitive nature is often a fundamental part. The line is very fine, as in art generally. Butler himself stresses the “strong practical aspect” of his work, and that he doesn’t consider himself as a conceptual artist with introspective reflections.
Likewise, Butler is not a man of a single project. His art can be conceived as a combination of assemblage art, live music, instrument design, performance art, theater, sculpture, installation, photography, film/video, graphic design, drawing, and collage.
”Hybrid instruments express a poetic spirit of re-invention and hyper-utility as new associations momentarily create a striking and re-animated cultural identity for forsaken objects.”