Interactive Art

5 03 2008

Tomorrow the Whitney Biennial opens to the public. In the event’s 74th year, the Whitney is trying something new. The museum has collaborated with the Park Avenue Armory and Art Production Fund (APF) to extend the event to a second venue.

Built from 1877-1881, the historic Park Avenue Armory is one of New York’s most beautiful (and important historic edifices). It originally housed the prestigious Seventh Regiment from which originated the National Guard. Its elaborate interior is the product of the 19th Century Aesthetic Movement, incorporating various historical styles and visual complexity.

From March 6-23, it will host will host Bienniel installations, many of which were designed specifically for this magnificent space. At their party last night I got a sneak preview. Aside from the ornate decor of the building itself (which includes mosaics and fireplaces designed by Tiffany and Co.), there were a few standouts. On the back wall of the massive drill hall hang facadeless neon signs, Gretchen Skogerson‘s examination of the “aesthetic paradox of disaster” in response to Hurricane Katrina desrtuction. Perhaps most poignant, however, is MK Guth‘s Ties of Protection and Safekeeping. Strung across and looped around the ornate Library/Silver Room are yards of yellow hair, with strips of red flannel hanging from them. Upon closer look each strip of flannel contains words: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness; My family, my body, my freedom; Polar Ice Caps… The question all are answering? “What is worth protecting?” Guth braid’s the answers into the artificial hair, creating one long Rapunzel-style braid of dreams. The effect is nothing short of captivating.

Throughout the next couple weeks a series special events will take place at the Armory, some separate and many in tandem with the installations. The lineup includes run of the mill music performances and film screenings, and a variety of less than ordinary experiences. DJ Olive, for example, will be hosting Slumber Party 2008 to present his Sleeping Pill series which he calls “a balm for troubled times,” and Agathe Snow will hold Stamina: Gloria et Patria, dance marathon in the Armory’s drill hall. Did I mention the tequila tasting, hosted by Eduardo Sarabia? Talk about some potent art.

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