Posts Tagged ‘ParkAveArmory’

Glacial is the New Black: Satyagraha and Shen Wei

Stare at image for 2 hours. Intermission. Resume staring.

Somewhere imprinted in my brain is a sacred rule of story: take only as much time as you need to get an idea across. Get in, make your point, get out. Keep things moving and don’t lose your audience. But this week in New York two separate pieces, both non-narrative, reduced me to tears by combining a staggeringly slow pace with one or two immense gestures of inspired stagecraft that hit at just the right moment.

SPOILER ALERT – the unexpected nature of these gestures contributed much to their impact. If you plan on seeing either of the pieces discussed, reading this essay could well rob you of that discovery. Shen Wei often tours the country and you almost certainly have a great opportunity to see Satyagraha on screen in your local movie theater this Wednesday, Dec 7 via the Met’s Live in HD program. Perhaps go see the work and then come back and read this.

The Shen Wei Dance Company performed an evening of works adapted or created  for the mammoth Park Avenue Armory space. Read the rest of this entry →


Dec 2011

A 1-bit rave (with no dancing)

Hey! There's my social security number!

When in New York last month I was lucky enough to be invited to the advanced opening of Ryoji Ikeda’s mammoth video/audio installation the transfinite at the Park Avenue Armory. It’s a 40′ high screen, both imposing and overwhelming. The front side, entitled test pattern is a series of aggressive strobing black and white patterns flashing rapidly on both the screen and the floor. The ‘back’ side, both data.tron and data.scan, is a more subtle projection of a staggering amount of data, millions of digits represented in fonts no thicker than a pixel (at this scale, about 1/3″)  with individual table monitors spread throughout the room echoing parts of the data in greater detail. Both sides are augmented by a soundtrack of digital clicks and noise emanating from powerful speakers surrounding the room.

No images or video can replicate the sensation of being in that space, one that can alternate between amazement, disorientation, discomfort, and for some sensitive folks, just plain nausea. My wife could only stay in the room for short periods of time before stepping out for a break, and she didn’t dare actually step in the central area where the projection was on the floor as well (although that may have been because she didn’t feel like taking her shoes off.) It’s an impressive battering of your senses, one that strikes a chord for a tech geek like myself, (who was inspired to pursue a career in computer graphics after seeing Star Trek II as a kid. The visual displays of information all over the bridge of the Enterprise were just spellbinding.)

The 8-bit aesthetic (possibly even 1-bit? I’m trying to remember if there were any grays on the front side at all…) and digital artifact nature of the sound track reminded me of David O’Reilly’s lovely work in the short film Please Say Something. Standing in the transfinite is what I imagine an O’Reilly character experiences when they’re very agitated. Or when they’re at a rave.



Jun 2011

Music without words is poop. Discuss…

Newspeak: Chamber ensemble most likely to steal your new metronome

(Reviewed in this post: eighth blackbird, red fish blue fish, Newspeak, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Stefan Weisman, David T Little, Matt Marks, Louis Andriessen)

Does music have the power to express anything? Igor Stravinsky says no. Chinua Achebe says if it doesn’t, it’s poop. Stravinsky says your MOM is poop. Achebe says is that the best you can do? Stravinsky says take THIS! and composes a piece entitled “Mrs. Achebe Smells Like Dog Poop.” Achebe says pretty expressive piece, Mr. Seewhatai Didthere. Stravinsky says D’OH and facepalms exactly 11 times.

OK, I’m paraphrasing a bit, but this is the conversation that eighth blackbird has been engaging in with their recent programs presented as part of the Tune In Festival at the Park Avenue Armory. The former concert, PowerFUL, makes the case for music’s ability to communicate directly and (lest it ends up in Achebe’s pooper scooper of history) politically. The latter, PowerLESS, is an exercise in absolute music, music that expresses nothing other than the music itself.

Looking at the programming choices, one notices immediately that almost all of the pieces in the PowerFUL program involve text, either spoken or sung, and those that don’t, Read the rest of this entry →


Feb 2011