Animal Collective & Danny Perez took over the Guggenheim Museum (pics & review)
by Benjamin Lozovsky
"For the Guggenheim's 50th Anniversary, the band Animal Collective has collaborated with artist Danny Perez on a site-specific performance piece that will transform the museum's rotunda into a kinetic, psychedelic environment. Transverse Temporal Gyrus will feature original recorded music composed specifically for the event along with video projections, costumes, and props, rendering the band members and performers into intense, visual abstractions. During the evening, guests are invited to freely explore the space in order to fully immerse themselves in the environment created by Animal Collective and Danny Perez."
Chaos and abstraction found its way back to the Guggenheim Thursday (3/4) night. It had nothing to do with the recently finished Kandinsky retrospective though. Instead it was through Transverse Temporal Gyrus, an almost violently meditative sound and visual installation designed by Animal Collective and artist Danny Perez.
The event was part of the ongoing yearlong celebration commemorating the museum's 50th anniversary. While it's impossible to say what museum founder Peggy Guggenheim might think of such an experiment in spectacle, her track record of gracious support for establishment challenging mind-benders like Max Ernst, Paul Klee, René Magritte and Marc Chagall could be a telling hypothesis.
Animal Collective described their musical contribution to the collaboration as an attempt to mimic the cacophonous yet often unrecognized communication present in both the jungle and thriving urban landscapes. It turned out to be an accurate representation, even through the diluted prism of psychedelia that washed over the towering rotunda for the whole event.
Samples created and collected by the band alternately chirped and blared through the 36 speakers set up along the ascending spiral path, determined at random by a complex (at least complex-looking on a audio engineer monitored screen) computer algorithm. For three hours monastic chants, saw-tooth metallic grinding, and even snippets of recognizable melodic elements from the band's recorded work, among many other sounds, repeated and bled into each other as Geologist, Avey Tare, and Deakin (Panda Bear wasn't there) stood as stylized monstrosities surrounded by black lit, stone-like sculptures and metamorphosing crystal balls. For many attendees, it was hit or miss.
The always challenging and ever-divisive band managed to confound plenty of their fans during the event, but to be fair, a large amount had probably never witnessed a sound installation before. And even as far as sound installations go, it was at times underwhelming. It was perhaps better served as less of a revelatory art piece and more of a completely unique and relaxing way to view and experience one of the most beautiful indoor spaces in all of New York City. Watching saturated colors shifting in tones illuminate the high glass ceiling of the Guggenheim was easily hypnotic.
But as the initially strange noises became more familiar as they reoccurred throughout the night, the mood of the crowd grew more frenetic, as if to connote that more we are able to understand each other, the more confusing our world becomes.
And for Animal Collective, the installation at once seemed like a creative side-indulgence and a culmination of a career long objective: to completely remove themselves as individuals from the music they create, sitting back as prominent but ultimately irrelevant performance objects. With that sort of fulfillment of an artistic destination, Peggy Guggenheim would surely approve.
More pictures from the 2nd of two shows last night, below...