New York summer, Part 1 – rooftop tiki bar and bells

Last Friday night Steve, Cate and I ran in to the Whitney Museum to see the Christian Marclay Festival — part exhibition, part performance space and part graffitti-friendly hangout (well, chalk-on-blackboard grafitti anyway). We missed the 7 pm performance but the place was still pretty packed till closing at 9 pm. The museum’s pay what you wish policy on Friday nights is obviously a draw.

Christian Marclay, Chalkboard at Festival at the Whitney Museum

We didn’t linger over Marclay’s mostly non-linear image-mashup videos. But it was nice to see the Philadelphia Museum of Art-commissioned piece, The Bell and the Glass, again. That 2003 work is a melange of images and sounds of and about the Liberty Bell and Marcel Duchamp’s the Large Glass.

I also enjoyed the “flash” “pop” “sniff” of Zoom Zoom, Marclay’s slide show of images that make you think about the importance of sound in relation to visual representation and memory.

Christian Marclay, Zoom Zoom, 2008. Digital slide projection, color, silent.

The big Chalkboard with musical staff lines, which runs the length of the wall in the cavernous 4th floor space, is especially popular. People love to leave their marks and messages on the grey surface — it’s like signing the guest book. The mishmash of names, city locations (while we were there a middle aged man climbed on a chair to write “Buenos Aires”) and doodles is loosely controlled chaos, which might be what the artist is after. More likely it is a way for visitors to achieve ownership of something they want to have a connection with. Then again, according to the Whitney’s website, musicians will occasionally be called in to interpret the mess on the walls. So I guess Marclay considers it music or musical, after all.

Charles Burchfield, Dandelion Seed Heads and the Moon, 1961-65, Karen and Kevin Kennedy collection

For us, the bigger hit of the evening was the Charles Burchfield show on the second floor, a chronological presentation of the artist’s mystical, brooding landscapes whose last room is a complete thrill of big, eye-popping works.

High above the bells toll but rather timidly

Summer on the High Line, grass is growing

The High Line on a sunny Saturday morning was full of people, and the plants are in full summer prairie mode–grasses galore with little plucky and assertive flowers. Creative Time has a High Line project right now at 14th St. in the covered section of the walkway. The audio piece, A Bell for Every Minute by Steven Vitello, is a minute-by-minute tolling of 59 different New York City bells (the Stock Exchange closing bell, St. Paul’s Chapel Bell of Hope, the Delacorte Clock Bell in Central Park). There’s a list online of which bell chimes at what particular minute of the hour. And on the hour the entire bell chorus rings.

As I sat in the space and the different bells chimed in, the sound of people and traffic became far more compelling. The bells ring and are hushed quickly and when they chime together on the hour it is a short-lived cacophony — too modest for the space and too modest for what it is — a celebration of bells. If you want to give us bells, really give it to us, full noise on.  Big public bells are about celebration or emergency and it would be great to hear their sounds explode in the space like it’s the end of the world…or the end of the 1812 overture. Instead, the project’s real impact seems to be an archival one, cataloging 59 bells in New York.

Tiki bar ambiance on the Met’s roof top

Steve, with Big Bambu on the Met Rooftop

A brief encounter with the Starn brothers’ Big Bambu on the Met‘s rooftop is all it takes to put you in a playful mood. With the drinks for sale at the drinks cart under the beach umbrella, and lots of folks sashaying around with their wine, beer and summer skin showing, it felt like the party place to be.  Go at sunset when the golden-red rays color everything with a rosy optimism.

Bib Bambu, looks like a roller coaster from this vantage point.

The bamboo bird’s nest/climbing structure (there are ramps to access its upper reaches, but only if you take the guided tour) is lashed together with colored ropes–no glue, nails, screws.  It resembles a pick-up-sticks roller coaster.  Much fun, much spectacle and a great people-watching backdrop.  But Big Bambu approaches public art with little content.   Unlike The Gates, which created a community parade route through Central Park, both decorating the landscape and empowering people to feel somehow part of a regal processional, Big Bambu’s point seems to be to create a hangout on the roof of the Met.

More photos at flickr.  And another post on Greater New York at PS1 coming up.