Playing the Building, a whimsical expression for an art installation that exposes the dignity of the old Jeune Lune Theater for the masses’ pleasure. The artist, David Byrne strips the ornament of the theater, leaving the structural bones bare. Revealing the worn brick, skeletal steel and cracked windows leaves the building vulnerable to the player’s whims. All that is left is raw unadulterated architecture.
David Byrne has set up an organ centrally in the space and connected the keys to solenoid hammers on the steel beams, to pipes on the walls and steel plates in the former balconies. To play the organ is to place your dominance over the structure. As you strike a key, the surfaces all around you begin to ring and vibrate with sound. The aura of manipulated surfaces reverberate around the other audience members. Then when self-confidence takes over, the next audience member steps forward to take center stage.
The artist reframe our perception of this old warehouse by giving dominance to the individual over the whole theater. In a sense we become the actors who are no longer present to give life to the space. I wonder, do the walls of a building absorb the character of the people who previously inhabited and maintained it?
Originally the theater played mutually with the performer. The performer projected their sound and the building focused and amplified sound to the audience. With the performers in-formalized, this intended relationship has been dismissed in favor of a ubiquitous audience making sounds against the space.
As cities densify and other corners of our infrastructure become vacant, what are we to do with these spaces? Those who realize the potential of these spaces will leave their mark. We have an innate attraction to these ‘left-over’ urban spaces. It may explain why so many artists and entrepreneurs try to rehabilitate warehouse districts and old buildings. They are forgotten spaces that we feel we have ‘discovered’ and to let others know we found it first we try to mark it. But in this installation each person can leave a temporal mark on the space. Visually, nothing has changed about the building, so others are free to rediscover and further explore this formerly vacant theater.