The Price of an Experience

Earlier this month, visitors to PS1 in Queens could find a particularly immersive multimedia experience in the white geodesic “performance dome” currently occupying the museum’s courtyard. Inside, four large video projections circled the dome around a central DJ stand and drum kit. Around that stood the audience, who soon found themselves lying on the ground for a better view of the imagery overhead. Video footage of Chan Marshall of Cat Power, Tilda Swinton, as well as three other “city sleepwalkers” were interspersed with graphic black and white shots of growing skyscrapers, whirling around the dome. This mesmerizing display marked the release of Sleepwalkers Box, an experimental multimedia publication from the artist Doug Aitken, DFA Records, and Princeton Architectural Press. Based on Aitken’s 2007 film installation at the Museum of Modern Art, the box includes a CD and a limited-edition vinyl picture disc; original artwork by Aitken on a full-color, two-sided poster; a DVD and book on the original MoMA installation; and more. It encourages you to create your own multisensory experience as you explore its printed images, motion pictures, and audio recordings.

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At the PS1 release party, the music directors Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Jonathan Galkin provided live percussion and an electronic score that incorporated prerecorded music from the Sleepwalkers Box. This soundtrack worked well with the projected imagery to create an immersive sonic and visual experience. The performance went on for roughly an hour and seemed to captivate the diverse audience of toddlers and hipsters alike. Audience members could walk away with a free poster from Princeton Architectural Press, but the one-color, newsprint product was a bit of a letdown after the audio-visual spectacular. Perhaps that was the goal, to encourage visitors to purchase Sleepwalkers Box instead. But at over $300 a pop, I’m not sure how many they were able to unload. Granted, it is a beautiful object, resulting from an inspiring collaboration between designers, artists, and musicians. As the media industry goes increasingly digital and album art is reduced to a single image on a two-inch screen (at best), we may find ourselves hankering after these kinds of physical souvenirs–and designers would do well to further consider the possibilities of packaging media as an object. Sleepwalkers Box is an excellent model; my only hope is that the price point for these multimedia releases will become more accessible for a wider audience – benefitting both consumers and artists. A typo within the title was amended from “The High Price of an Experience” to “The Price of an Experience” at 9:04 am on April 24, 2012.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Cities

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