Art Sounds

Biennial crowds stumble onto noise around every corner

Lost and trying to find the Trisha Donnelly sound piece plugged by the Voice's Jerry Saltz, I stepped out onto a crowded Whitney Biennial fourth floor and asked disco-pop icon Momus, decked out in full boilersuit with modified raver-pant extensions and signature eye patch, for directions. Though busy chanting through a megaphone in the direction of Adam McEwen's mock Times obituary of Rod Stewart ("Football, model railways, and a procession of leggy blondes"), he put down the horn for a second and politely said, in full Scottish accent, that he wasn't sure—he'd only been in the gallery for two days. Then, from above and apropos of nothing, a temple-like gong blast drowned him out: Maybe that was it?

Difficulty was, everything was noise: Anthony Burdin's installation locked Melvins and Destroyer records in a barbed-wire hut. Speakers screeched woozy chopped-but-not-screwed bits of Led Zep and Doors too loud, and bled under the weight of terrifying all the elderly gallery rats and twitchy tourists accidentally wandering in. Next door, Sonic Youth renegade Jim O'Rourke's Door video-art soundfuck reimagined LaMonte Young's Dream House via eternal shimmery-edged bell tones and muted video colors of, well, doors; most of those same (but now warier) older auditors waited confused by the entrance, thus forfeiting dreamy three-or-four-dimension (time, dude) tight-space immersion in O'Rourke's layered vibrations.

Around the corner a crowd gathered to trip off "JUMP," a T. Kelly Mason and Diana Thater video with cute kids skipping rope to different live-band takes of "Subterranean Homesick Blues"; they had trouble keeping time on the stodgy whiskey-lurch of a George Thorogood–style rendition, but locked up almost martially when the band did it hip-hop.

On deck, the Melvins play live on May 17: Here's hoping they get their record back.

 
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