DJ OLIVE AT THE 2008 WHITNEY BIENNIAL
Here's some random notes and photos about my biennial installation. I'm still trying to get better
shots and video and spend some time to make this page sweet but for now just want to show you the idea.
hope you had a chance to see it and hear it:
Client: Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial 2008
location: Park Avenue Armory, New York
Company L Room with upper mezzanine balcony, high ceilings, 7 moose heads and 1 elk head
mounted above elaborate hardwood panelling. Two sets of french doors at the far end of the
room under the mezzanine open onto short balconies high on the wall of the city block sized
Armory drill hall.
duration of installation: march 3 to march 24th 2008.
install load in feb 11th
materials: bamboo twine, recycled natural fiber cloth and nine cots. plus sound and other
objects for upstairs side rooms
basic description of installation and site:
a triage tent 16' x 27' made of 1&1/4" bamboo poles lashed with heavy jute twine and covered
with white fabric made from 20" squares sewn together. this tent takes up the whole room except
for a 1' space between it and the wooden paneling of the room's walls. the dimension of the
tent's side walls are the same as the roof sides. end walls are hand-sewn into place after the
roof and side walls are unrolled over the bamboo frame in one piece. end walls have openings
2 squares wide by 4 squares tall. six wood cots are in a row to the left as you come in.
each cot is covered with dark blue wool blankets, a white sheet and a pillow in a white
pillowcase. the cots are made up tight. the speakers are pro top of the line full frequency
and are hidden behind the fabric opposite the cots two to a side, 26" off the ground. the sound
system is such that you can have the volume turned low and the sound is still fully
present and dynamic. only two small lights are outside the tent, turned down very low.
one is a warm light and high up, the other is cool and low on the opposite wall. the hope is that people will
lie down and sleep so the light should be dim yet bright enough to not bump into others. the
light also shows off the seams of the squares in a few places.
a huge mirror to the right of the french doors must be covered: a red cross flag quilt
made of 20" squares of the same material as the tent with 5 20" red squares making a sloppy
cross at its center will be hung 1' in front of the mirror from a bamboo pole, completely covering
the mirror. a sewing machine with a small light on its face sits in front of the hanging quilt, with its
dim warm light bulb washing up onto the red cross. the same sewing machine that did all the
top of the stairs: bamboo lantern bug made of bamboo pole scrap from the tent,
bound like giant dragonfly wings with a long bent pole supporting it like a tail. three old camping
lanterns with red light hang from its wings and one in its center. three small genelec speakers are
under each lantern. the center speaker plays a mono 3 min cdr on repeat. the outside speakers
play a stereo 5 min cdr on repeat. sounds are urban human vehicular and old world media. the
only light is from the three red lanterns which are dim but splash red circles from their tops onto
small derelict room upstairs: turntable guitar player is made from one light, one
feather, one electric guitar and one fender reverb amplifier. a white flag made from the same
material as the tent and a scrap of bamboo pole leans in the corner. long bench along one wall.
mezzanine: hummingbird dvd projected super small. two small 4" wooden speakers
and a small RadioShack amplifier. two old lanterns arranged on the floor near the door so people
can see the short step down when they enter the mezzanine. one wooden cot made up the same
as the ones in the tent.
as the viewer sees it:
when you enter from the main hall of the Armory's second floor, you pass through a
heavy black curtain and then step into the tent. six cots with blue wool blankets are in a row to
the left and quiet music of warm tones from the right. the light is dim and the fabric covering the
hand lashed bamboo frame is made of sqares like a quilt. there is gental back lighting. a triage
tent for peace. you can lie down and sleep to the sleeping pill music or choose to pass through.
when you come out the far end of the tent, you are under the mezzanine
and looking out over the drill hall through the open french doors. you still don't see the moose
heads. faint cool light from the drill hall rakes in through the open doors and cuts across the tent.
the only other light is from the small bulb on a sewing machine. the sewing machine is an old
green industrial model built into a table. behind the sewing machine is a huge quilt made of the
same sized squares as the tent, 20"'s. the center 5 squares make a red cross but are sewn on so
it appears the cross is falling apart. sloppy. on the opposite wall is a dark staircase with a sign
written in a bold child like hand, MOOSE LEVEL.
hung in the stairwell, is a stained and beat up camping lantern with thick old glass, very
dimly lit. upstairs is a dark room with a kind of bamboo fence, three old lanterns with red light
making circles on the low ceiling. under the lanterns three speakers play snatches of
conversation and street noise like passing car sound systems on a brooklyn st. all the cables for
the sound and lanterns are fanned out and then converge to wrap around a long bamboo prop for
the fence like a tail. taken all together its like an urban war bug warning us in some way we can't
past the dragonfly fence structure, in the dark, is an open door to a small room with a
long industrial bench down one side and a row of battered steel lockers across the back wall. a
guitar hangs upright from a locker door. a phonograph turntable with a hawk feather mounted to
the platter sticking up and out at a 45 degree angle, rotates and strums the guitar very lightly. the
guitar is electric and plays low through an old scuffed fender reverb amp. the reverb is up.
arpeggiator is off. treble down, bass up. the guitar is open tuned, down and away from a western
open tuning... more like west african. this guitar playing turntable device is used a few times on
the "sleeping pill" soundtrack being played in the tent. a single bare light bulb is hidden in the
bottom of the locker next to the guitar so that only a sliver of light spikes out from the bottom of
the locker, casting the shadow of the rotating feather in a dance back and forth along the
opposite wall from the bench. its the only light in the room. scrap bamboo is piled behind the
bench. in a dark corner, a ragged white flag (7" x 11") from the same cloth as the tent is fitted
around a 5' length of 3/4'' inch bamboo.
coming out of the guitar room it is very dark. a small video on the wall through another
door draws you onto the balcony. the video is of a humming bird suspended in flight and is
projected so small the humming bird is almost life size. the projection is about 1' off the floor.
there is an intense yet quiet sound of humming coming from the heap of cables, projector and
small 4" wooden speakers stacked in a pile in front of the humming bird projection. the humming
sound feels like its a bird but its from an old arp 2600 analog synth which was used extensively
on the sleeping pill sound track inside the tent. as your eyes adjust to the dark you realize you're
on the balcony overlooking the tent. after a while your eyes adjust further and you start to make
out the moose heads mounted at eye-level around the walls looking down onto the tent with
sleeping people inside.
origianl site specific concept november 07:
I am working on my third "Audio Sleeping Pill" composition for Brisbane record label
Room40. I have published two other "Sleeping Pill" compositions with Room40, "Buoy," in '04,
and "Sleep," in '06. I was thinking of incorporating the sleeping pill project into a site specific
installation at the 2008 Whitney Biennial for a few reasons.
1) Sound bleed can be a problem in a museum environment. Beats and bass will bleed bad.
If I want to have a rich full frequency volume, the "Sleeping Pill" compositions could be louder
than beats and bleed less.
2)the "Sleeping Pill" project works as a kind of balm and physical anchor to hazard all the
overdriven media saturated synthetic dysfunctional user networks, especially because it will be in
the Armory on Park Avenue drawing more attention to the fact that we are a nation at wars.
3)Art as medicine. Sound as therapy. A place to pause. reflect. think. absorb. recharge. find
peace of mind.
I will make a tent out of 20" squares sewn together to make a kind of patchwork quilt of
different white recycled fabric. The poles will be bamboo and lashed with twine. Inside will be old
wooden cots, made up nice and tight. If you pass through the tent you can look out over the drill
hall through two floor-to-ceiling windows. There is a small set of stairs that goes up to a
mezzanine balcony. Here, you can look down onto the tent roof and see moose heads around the
walls also looking down on the tent in the dark. There is a small hummingbird projected in a loop
down in the far corner of the balcony, just in one tiny spot low on a dirty wall. There is the faint
sound of her wings humming.
letter: feb 2nd 08:
I'm sewing like crazy.
396 20" squares sewn into 6 quilts: 4 walls and 2 ceiling halves.
the fabric is all recycled. i got it at Material for the Arts, a non-for profit organization where private
companies can donate materials for a tax break. i found these black garbage bags filled with
huge chunks of a cotton canvas blend. sweet as!(thats aussie for wicked!).
after cutting it all up in to 20" squares with a wood template made by the Ecuadorian woodwork
shop down the hall, and then sewing the larger scraps together, i found i had 404 squares!
I'm going for the bamboo tomorrow....eeeeEK!
The soundtrack for Dj Olive's Whitney Biennial
installation is now on CD. Triage is third
in his "sleeping pill" series on ROOM40
here are two videos i found on line mostly of the turntable guitar player i put in a small room on the mazzanine "moose" level:
liner notes from Triage: this is a sleeping pill. please listen quietly. david watson pagpipes vija brazus percussion guitar vocals karl francke harmonica vocals moog arp dj reaganomics turntable christian fennesz production & processing dj olive production & processing, guitar playing turntable, arp, moog, akai sampler, guitar, electronics, turntable, percussion, keyboards, neve eq written produced engineered and mixed by gregor asch (c)&(p)2008. Triage was an installation made for the 2008 Whitney Biennial. this is the soundtrack for the triage tent. i would like to thank:
karl Francke for the extended use of his arp2600
and sweet clean and warm studio last cold winter('07-'08) at king collision.
i would also like to thank:
shamim, henriette, diana, kim.
Allison w. for hooking me up with mfta.
arts production fund, casey, doreen, yvonne kuuipo, mike, nick & his posse.
the 67th st armory, admin staff, cleaning staff & security staff.
bamboo spot on the jersey shore.
harlen for the help building & van(ooooops!sorry 'bout the windshield!).
vija for sewing heaps and general feedback and good vibes along the way.
thanks dennis del zotto for the feedback over beers that night.
those who helped with the bamboo frame: arron harlen dennis tim.
raz and marina for the warm vibes during install.
ignacio "once11" platas for the bamboo encouragement and for coming from Lalaland for the opening.
james for the use of those neve's and all the support and camera work along the way.
carina for design and artwork of all three sleeping pills, Buoy, Sleep & Triage.
lawrence beck & the yidder for believing in the "sleeping pill" project and being ROOM40.
all the folks who came and saw and listened and maybe evan fell asleep on one of the cots.