Subliminal cruelty

DJ Spooky at the Institute of Contemporary Art, January 26, 2008
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  January 29, 2008
dj_spooky_by_t[1]inside
DJ Spooky

In any experiment, failure isn’t the greatest risk — cruelty is. DJ Spooky had plenty of both to offer at last week’s “Subliminal Strings” presentation at the ICA. He is, after all, the ultimate overachiever.

As a composer, writer, DJ, conceptual artist, and multimedia hero, Spooky has built his brand by jacking all trades and mastering none. When ICA director of programs David Henry concluded his glowing introduction with the remark that Spooky, despite his CV, was “still just a kid,” you could tell he meant it as a compliment — but it felt more like a disclaimer.

Spooky identified his first piece as “a work in progress” composed from video footage and recordings he’d made of ice and water on his recent trip to Antarctica. Although it sounded interesting, the result was like having to sit through Auntie Enya’s vacation footage. Longitudinal coordinates zoomed past, maps of the continent spun into focus — it looked like the final project from an internship at PBS’s 3-2-1 Contact. Meanwhile, Spooky feigned activity (and cultivated desperately needed mystique) by tweaking EQ knobs. As the status bar inched across the bottom of the media-player window (itself an amateurish A/V faux pas), it was hard not to envy the glaciers’ ability to vanish undetected.

The rest of the performance found Spooky (behind a pair of CD turntables and a laptop) ostensibly collaborating with a live trio of violin, cello, and bass. As they plucked out abstract figures and droned cerebral moans, Spooky would burst in with dissonant woodwind samples, pitch-bent textures, and woefully dated drum loops. It was endless, drab, meandering, and somewhat insulting. Meanwhile, Guy Debord’s 40-minute film Society of the Spectacle — an old Situationist tract against totalitarianism and the passive acceptance of mass media — arbitrarily looped in the background. As heads nodded off or found distraction watching party boats pass by on the harbor, we were left to wonder whether we were in the presence of a true artist or a cruel ironist.

  Topics: Live Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Hip-Hop Culture, DJ Spooky,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MICHAEL BRODEUR
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FOLK ACT  |  June 26, 2010
    Vikesh Kapoor
  •   BOSTON PRIDE WEEK: OFF THE MAP  |  June 07, 2010
    We may seem a little cranky, but us local gayfolk just love a parade, and we’re actually heartened by this annual influx of brothers and sisters from every state of New England and every letter of our ever-expanding acronym.  
  •   THE NEW GAY BARS  |  June 02, 2010
    If I may channel the late, great Estelle Getty for a moment: picture it, Provincetown, 2009, a dashing young man with no discernible tan and an iffy T-Mobile signal languishes bored upon the sprawling patio of the Boatslip Resort.
  •   ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI | BEFORE TODAY  |  June 01, 2010
    If the gradual polishing of Ariel Pink’s sound — and it’s not all that much more polished — puts his loyalists at odds with his albums, I count that as good news.
  •   MORE THAN HUMAN  |  May 26, 2010
    It’s hard to talk about Janelle Monáe when your jaw’s fallen off.

 See all articles by: MICHAEL BRODEUR