DJ Spooky: The Nauru Elegies

Music, Classical and opera
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DJ Spooky: The Nauru Elegies
Photograph: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art
DJ Spooky
Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, continues his “Reframed” series for the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a multimedia collaboration consisting of a string-quartet performance and digital-animation projections. The piece explores the complexities of the global economy via a case study of the Republic of Nauru, an overmined South Pacific island and tax haven. Aiming to reflect colonial and postcolonial issues in contemporary digital society, Miller’s composition for strings will be performed live during this thought-provoking one-night event.


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Beside Myself

I had the misfortune to attend this ceaseless sophomoric torture event last night. While I can acknowledge good intentions and that DJ Spooky seems a nice fellow, the kind words end there. I simply cannot figure out what the standard for art is anymore. This thing was atrocious and seemingly endless. The DJing was mediocre and dated, the 13 year olds forming the string quartet (who we were urged to applaud three times before a single note was played, simply because they were 13) should be recognized for staying awake - and I only saw one of them sneak in some texting between movements. The "musical" portion of the evening began with a computer crash. I am already sick of watching "artists" stand on stage looking down at their computers, but now I have to wait for it to reboot too... I felt like I was still at work! So the hapless mash up of tired beats and aimless strings begins, occasionally to be "enhanced" by some digital turntable scratching from the 80's. What you heard in the first ten seconds was what you were going to get for what seemed like an eternity. But this aspect pales in comparison to the video component. The most significant part of the visual experience was a giant screen as a backdrop onto which it seemed like someone's VHS camcorder out-takes from their trip to an abandoned phosphorus processing plant were projected. All too often this utterly atrocious and shaky footage was interrupted by an onslaught of quotes and masturbatory word ejaculations proclaiming things like "architecture is the frozen manifestation of dystopic meanderings in a post-apocalyptic dream-reality where the soft underbelly of reason is slayed by pseudo-morph-ism on ukulele strings". But back to the footage for a moment. I cannot overstate the crimes and shortcomings of this dimension of the event. I am no snob, and I am a great lover of lo-fi, but this was just pure garbage. First of all, not one drop of cinematographic awareness showed itself in the footage, all of which was endless shaking handheld surveys of what seemed like a single location, the aforementioned abandoned mining/processing facility. If this were not boring and torture enough, the filmmaker, who seemed to be attempting to represent the raping and pillaging of the island of Nauru's natural resources and devastation of its economy and people, failed to portray a single aspect which represented the victims of this massacre. Not a single person, save the camera persons boot and an incidental camcording vacationer, entered into a single shot. Not a single portrait of Nauru other than this abandoned industrial site. Yo, DJ Spooky, we got the point after the first ten seconds. Then there was the recurring theme, the threat of collapse in the form of an ominous skull and cross-bones sign warning trespassers that the building could collapse at any moment. What a clever way to warn us that the paradigm of our world is about to crumble. Good thing this appeared to remind us every five minutes because with all of the exciting and dynamic themes, I may have forgotten... OK, I am almost exorcised now. But one more thing... How is it that an institution such as the met, can host such sophomoric tripe? This would have been a great event if it were a high school student's senior project or something. How does this end up at the met, with an audience full of suckers who paid $30 each to sit through this torture? I guess in the end, I have to give it up to DJ Spooky. Not only did he pull off this amazing scam for himself, a residency at the met and who know how many endorsements and grants, but if art is the true measure of a great civilization, his terrible work itself is the true representation of the great collapse!!!