The Third Mind – American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989

Laurie Anderson invited me to the opening of “The Third Mind – American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989” at the gorgeous Guggenheim Museum. Ann Hamilton’s piece “Human Carriage” gets your attention right away. Built for and around Frank Lloyd Wright building’s unique shape, a complex system of steel wires and a long pipe is rigged with a small wheeled cart with two dangling Tibetan hand cymbals. Every time the cart is manually released from the top it spirals down the Guggenheim rotunda’s levels all the way to the bottom where it hits a hooked book that’s been previously sliced to miriads of small slips of paper held together by the book’s spine (one such books could be seen used as a clever ornament around the artists’ neck).

Laurie Anderson’s piece “In the House, In the Fire” (what I went there to see) consisted of a Tibetan singing bowl sitting atop a circular saw blade, slowly spinning with and on top of a plexiglass or glass-looking mast. Sounds originating at the base of the mast travel across the structure and resonate through the material of the blade and the bowl. Fascinating concept and hauntingly beautiful sounds, just like everything Laurie ever produces.

My other favorite pieces were Robert Irwin’s untitled acrylic lacquer on formed acrylic plastic circle with shadows (just beautiful to look at, while you try to figure out which part is wall and which part is on top of the wall), John Cage’s sheet music (I wish Zorn’s sheet music was there too!), Fluxus-member Nam June Paik’s tribute to Cage (“Cage in the Cage in the Cage”, which was basically Mr. Cage filmed while sitting at a piano and the shown through a small LCD TV which was housed in a bird cage which was housed in a larger bird case), La Monte Young’s omni-sensory sound and light environment “Dream House” (two rooms with florescent blu and red-ish lights and wall projections, a white carpet and a multi-channel sound system emanating loud sine waves which blend in different ways depending on where you stand in the room), James Lee Byars’ “The Death of James Lee Byars” (a huge room with walls, floor and ceiling covered with gold leaf and a gold-leaf covered coffin in the middle), Paul Kos’ “Sound of Ice Melting” (two 25lbs blocks of ice melting with eight microphones all around them to pick up the sound of the melting ice – which unfortunately could not be heard due to the loud chatter of the crowed that gathered for this opening).

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