Animal Collective Debut Art Installation in NYC

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Animal Collective / Photo by Roger Kisby/Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
WRITTEN BY
William Goodman

Animal Collective, the sound chemists whose pursuit of psychedelic dance ecstasy, Merriweather Post Pavilion, landed SPIN's 2009 Album of the Year Award, conducted their biggest experiment yet Thursday night at New York's Guggenheim Museum: the premiere of an installation artwork called Transverse Temporal Gyrus, created with their visual guru Danny Perez and featuring all-new music.

Sometimes experiments birth more questions than answers.

See a photo gallery of the exhibit here.

The exhibit transformed the world-famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building's circular interior into a living kaleidoscope of pinks, greens, reds, and oranges, all the way up to its giant skylight. On the bottom floor, David "Avey Tare" Portner, Josh "Deakin" Dibb, and Brian "Geologist" Weitz stood idle atop black plastic mounds, wearing black cloaks and horned white masks, lookin' like dead ringers for the evil bunny from Donnie Darko. Between them was a glowing plastic stalagmite.

Music played as the band stood still: a cacophony of bird calls, oscillating drones, dripping sounds, and one particular squawk that sounded like the smoke monster from Lost was approaching from behind. The only vocals were unintelligible chants.

Thousands of curious fans -- old museum members and young hipsters alike, who lined three city blocks outside waiting their turn to enter -- filed by, pausing, scratching their heads, then wondering aloud, "So... when does it start?

Only time would tell. 45 minutes passed. Then 90 minutes. Still no movement from the AC boys, who had now been standing a total of six hours since the exhibit opened.

The museum's escorts were bombarded with questions. "I've been asked if anything's going to happen about 200 times so far," said one. "My answer: Nope. This is it. And I feel like this event advertised a little wrong. People are here for a concert and they're certainly not getting one.

She's right -- the 19-year-olds with glow sticks and face paint were clearly looking for something a bit more.... festive.

But still, like they did with their collaborative film ODDSAC, AC and Perez achieved their goal. On the Guggenheim's website, the band explain that they hoped to transform the museum "into a kinetic, psychedelic environment" for attendees "to freely explore the space in order to fully immerse themselves in the environment.

"We wanted to create an environment where people could take some time to listen to other kinds of sounds and get away from those familiar sounds of the city," AC wrote. "Keeping in mind the birds of the jungle, we've created an array of sounds with Animal Collective's music that is seemingly random... or is it?"

Good question. But the kid upfront in the face paint, with the glow stick around his neck, certainly found some sort of escape – he danced the whole time to dance beats that didn't even exist.

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