RAVING AT HOME
Techno shakes The Met Cloisters
For the second year in a row, musicians, artists, museums, galleries, and various types of institutions are looking for alternative solutions and ways to engage with their audience under limited circumstances due to the pandemic.
This summer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art did something different and unexpected - it brought techno to the Met Cloisters - America's only museum dedicated exclusively to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages which was opened in 1938 as a branch of MoMA.
The event named "Sonic Cloisters" began on June 3. For the first time in the history of MoMA, recordings of electronic and techno music series were released in its medieval art center.
What is "Sonic Cloisters"?
"Sonic Cloisters" is a virtual series of commissioned electronic music concerts filmed in the galleries and courtyards of The Met Cloisters by four venerated producers from the world of techno: Seth Troxler and Phil Moffa (who appeared as Lost Souls of Saturn); Jlin; and Dubfire.
Each of the artists presented a unique production inspired by The Met's medieval art collection and the architectural design of the cloisters and gardens. They were exploring significant symbols and themes from the collection and conceptualized their performances in close consultation with curators from The Met's Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters.
The audio was captured live using three-dimensional ambisonic microphones that render the acoustics in detail, while dramatic lighting and extended reality technologies were used to create mesmerizing imagery to complete the performances and provide an immersive experience.
MetLiveArts meets Shawn Schwartz, founder of the famous Brooklyn electronic music venues Halcyon and Output.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Department of Live Arts (MetLiveArts) is a singular artistically rigorous body of work commissions and presents new works of performance: music, words, movement, sound, and related hybrids. It furthers The Met's commitment to living artists, deepens connections between audiences and works of art, and introduces untested modes of performance.
According to Limor Tomer, Lulu C., and Anthony W. Wang, General Manager of Live Arts, MetLiveArts has always engaged with performance artists who seek out opportunities to challenge themselves.
"'Sonic Cloisters' continues that tradition by inviting these brilliant musicians to broaden their artistic influence and creative process, placing art that is centuries old in dialogue with contemporary electronic music. These extraordinary producers and performers all bring their different identities and experiences to their music, a true realization of the progression of Techno as a global art form", they stated.
"It is profoundly humbling and gratifying to commission work from these celebrated artists in contemporary electronic music knowing that it will be freely available to The Met's global online audience of art and culture enthusiasts," Schwartz added.
But, why techno at the Cloisters?
The Met points out some parallels between the music genre and the art of the Middle Ages.
"Much like the medieval art that surrounds each performance, modern techno expresses present-day anguish, expectation, and celebration, responding to inequity, suffering, and uncertainty with bright innovation and imagination," the museum says, and points out that "The genre often encourages a 'communal euphoric experience and creates inner space for peace, reflection, and faith, much like art did in the Middle Ages."
Schwartz notes that "Through inclusion in a space usually reserved for traditional performing arts, this groundbreaking series by MetLiveArts represents a bold step in recognition of Techno as an art form by major American institutions. Especially now, in the context of the global pandemic, the juxtaposition of Techno—understood as a reflection of modern urban decay and angst—with art inspired by the plagues of the Dark Ages seems eerily relevant and darkly poignant".
A new performance digitally premiered every month. The last performance that hasn't premiered yet is Dubfire's. It will go live on August 5 (Thursday), 9 pm in Pontaut Chapter House.
The performances are available on The Met's website and online channels, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch, where they will remain free and available to stream indefinitely.