Saturday, July 12, 2008

Playing The Building

During my recent trip to New York, Emily and I visited an art installation called Playing the Building by former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and Creative Time. It is located in the Battery Maritime Building in lower Manhattan, next door to the Staten Island Ferry. It has a rich history that you can read about here. It's a gorgeous building that has stood empty for quite some time. As you can see, the exterior has undergone renovation. The interior will get an overhaul once the installation is done at the end of August.

Here's a view of the building from the water.

Because of the condition of the building, you have to sign a waiver before entering. I really enjoyed getting a chance to see the interior in this way. We live in a world where new=good. But this space was beautifully decrepit. I was taken with the details of its decay.

The installation itself originated in Stockholm before making its way to New York. A small, antique church organ is connected via wires, tubes, and other engineering voodoo to various parts of the building. In front of the organ, painted on the floor, is this invitation:

When you press one of the keys it might rattle the radiator. Another blows air past a heating pipe creating an ersatz flute. A third raps on a metal column. It's strange to describe because it is so deceptively simple. When you play the organ, you are literally playing the building. I was raised on a steady diet of Talking Heads music, so I already had great respect for David Byrne. My hat's off to him for coming up with something so clever and wonderful.

The space itself is a masterpiece. Having the lower portion painted in white provided a wonderful juxtaposition of clean openness with neglect and decay.

The weather was beautiful the day that Emily and I visited. The early afternoon light poured through the massive skylight, making stunning patterns on the floor and walls.

At that hour on a Friday, we didn't have to wait long to try the organ for ourselves. Here's virtuoso, Emily:

No matter what words I use, they will be inadquate to describe the experience. If you are in New York, I urge you to check it out yourself (Fri, Sat, Sun. 12-6pm). Short of that, you can check out this movie. Thanks to Emily for her camera work:

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posted by Adriana at 5:51 PM


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Adriatic Bear by Adriana Arcia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.