By Emily Miles
This month, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum continued its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration with a rather unusual exhibit. On Thursday, March 4, Animal Collective collaborated with artist Danny Perez on a unique performance piece specifically designed for the museum.
Transverse Temporal Gyrus featured original recorded music composed for the event. Costumes, props, lighting, visual elements and sound were incorporated into one incredibly psychedelic experience for anyone inside the museum.
Animal Collective described their inspiration for the performance with mysticism and excitement. They wanted to relate being immersed in the jungle, surrounded by the calls of wild birds, with being immersed in New York City at night. Adding that along with the visual work of Danny Perez, the Guggenheim was transformed into “a more mysterious hideaway.”
The performance was rumored to have sold out 20 minutes after ticket sales opened. Soon after, the Guggenheim opened up an additional show to meet the demand. With inexpensive tickets priced at $25 for members, $30 for nonmembers and up to $300 for “Craigslisters,” fans spanned genres and came from far and wide to see the event.
By 9 p.m., hundreds of eager fans lined the block in the cold before the performance. They retained their excitement ever so coolly in thick-rimmed glasses and Lycra, hardly aware of the older, bourgeoisie museum members sliding through the velvet rope at the front door.
Red paper tickets were distributed for entrance with the simple invitation to “start from the upper-level and work your way down.” Despite the hype surrounding the event, the dozens of reviews online and the enticing Animal Collective description, no one really knew what to expect upon entering the modern art museum.
The audience was shepherded into the museum’s giant rotunda and met by an eerie, supernatural spectral display. Three ghostly actors, costumed in paper mache masks and floor-length gowns, were perched atop Danny Perez’s huge statuesque art, hardly moving at all throughout the performance. Rumors flew of the strange actors being the members of Animal Collective.
Long-time museum members tiptoed through the unusual audience in utter disbelief, clutching delicate glasses of white wine. Hoards of hyperactive, face-painted Animal Collective fans danced and spun around them. Despite the pristine museum environment, these clans of colorful Animals seemed completely at home, hopping around screeching and blowing bubbles.
It could have been the multi-colored strobe lighting patterns bouncing randomly from tier to tier, matching the visual creations of Danny Perez. It could have been the chirping of strange, exotic birds echoing from every angle. It could’ve been that the music, similar to that of Animal Collective, never resembled a particular song or even pattern for that matter. It could have been the eerie footage of color conglomeration and images of nature that were slung onto the roundabout walls of the tiers rising from the rotunda.
Or maybe it was just the absinthe. The yellow, sparkling drink was poured for a mere $9 a glass, alongside domestic beer and wine. Regardless of the circumstances, audience members spent the entire three-hour performance in a state of trance. There was no beginning, no climax and no conclusion.
The performance was set to end at midnight, but as the Guggenheim’s senior guards soon learned, clans of Collective fans are not easily deterred. The celebration continued as the music faded; a dance party erupted in the highest level of the museum, animal calls and excited yelps echoed to the exiting attendees below.
The three actors stayed in place—bidding no farewell. The music continued—slowing in tempo. The audience remained—stuck in another world. Guards moved the last of the mesmerized teenagers towards the back door. As they enter the real world, the sound of wild jungle birds transitioned into the sound of the New York City night.