Gang Gang Dance @ The Park Avenue Armory (Whitney Biennial), 3.9.08

Text/Photos by Aaron Richter

It seemed like few knew what to expect in the minutes before Gang Gang Dance‘s performance at the Park Avenue Armory, in conjunction with the opening of the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Even more were confused as they were told that the room was at capacity and to please stop crowding the doorway.

But as the band started playing, an odd projection started to shimmer on the hallway wall outside the entrance to the performance space. Not being inside the room, it took a few minutes to realize that in the projection was the emerging outline of a man striking brush strokes against the wall and an image appearing on top of these brush strokes. As more brush strokes crossed the projection wall, the image became clear that it was a face wearing a metallic mask. As the painter eventually covered the entire surface, the performing band was revealed, an intriguing effect that, at times, had the intimacy of a Warhol screen test and, at others, the loose improv clusterfuckiness of a lost episode of TV Party.

Not being in the room, the logistics of the performance were difficult to suss out at first, but everything was quite simple–one of those “Oh, duh!” moments–when we figured out the room was divided by a large mirror. The audience in the room sat on one side of the mirror. The band began playing on the other. The band was being filmed and projected onto the mirror. The image of this projection only appeared when the mirror was painted with the white strokes of paint (creating a surface for a projection to appear)–the effect being that the painter was painting the performance, revealing more and more with each single brush stroke. Video of the mirror from the audience’s perspective was projected itself outside of the performance space, creating a screen on the hallway wall. Eventually the projection inside the room was revealed in its entirety when the brush strokes covered the most of the mirror’s reflective surface area, and the projection both in the performance space and outside on the wall revealed the actual performance going on behind the mirror.

Now part of us wants to believe that the band wasn’t even at the show, and the source of the performance was a recording. Which, from all we witnessed outside of the room, could be entirely possible. But the after-show chatter seemed to prove that the full band was indeed in action behind the mirror.

Simply put: This was rad as hell.

Some more shots …