I went to “The Murder of Crows” at the Park Avenue Armory and then on to see Lin Tianmiao’s “Bound Unbound” at the Asia Society. She is a major artist from China and this was her first big solo show in New York.
“Murder” is a sound installation by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller with 98 speakers in the gigantic central drill hall of the Armory. It was amazing and numbing at the same time, with choral music, spoken words, Tibetan prayers, orchestral music and sound effects. The sounds — floating, running, pounding, playing, dancing, purring, humming, screeching and cawing — filled the huge, empty space.
A few years ago a friend of a friend arranged a private tour of the Armory. The renovations were almost complete and the staff, in an effort to market early memberships, were happy to show off the history and architecture. At that point, they were still finding mice nesting in the shreds of old army uniforms in the private lockers of long-gone gentleman soldiers and the drill hall was being cleaned up so it could become a cavernous theatrical venue. The renovations are done.
In the center there was a circle of light — not bright light, but a dim twilight — and inside the circle there were chairs. Most of the people sat in these chairs listening intently to the half hour program that repeated on a loop. But some of us stayed clear of the “camper’s circle” and ventured into the deeper darkness of the hall.
I immediately headed into the darkness, first circling the “civilized” sitters and then deciding to be a complete outlier and never enter that area. I walked and listened, my eyes adjusting to the darkness and then I just plopped myself down on the floor. I was pretty sure, as I was wearing a brown and bright white dress, no one would step on me —having been startled by a woman in a black dress coming out of the distance, I wanted to be sure of my safety. First I watched other people and then I closed my eyes and listened.
Sound is very powerful. The thump of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, the cries of distant seagulls, the creaking door upstairs that wakes a sleeper with the news that she is NOT ALONE in the house.
Let’s just say, I got some ideas from my time on the floor in the darkness — listening.
Lin Tianmiao’s work is startling and challenging. We were required to put white booties over our shoes like crime scene detectives, before visiting her white room. No more than 10 people at a time, wandered around a mini forest of white silk, headless female nudes, hairy constructions of white balls of thread, two white dogs threatening one of the white nudes, a white figure bowing at a mirror, more white, more nudes, more threads, more white, more puffy figures…
The room with the video installations was fabulous and seemed to pull together all of Lin Tainmiao’s various inspirations, but the room I enjoyed the most was her silver ribbon and thread skeleton. Each bone was joined to a tool in a scary and sometimes funny combination of human and inhuman. It was the disconnected pieces of a futuristic bone yard spread out on an autopsy table.
Murder, mystery and art on a Friday in New York!