ArtHop: David Byrne’s Playing the Building

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Playing the Building

May 31st – August 10th

Weekends, 12 PM – 6 PM


Yesterday Bwog attended the opening of David Bryne’s Playing the Building, an amazing, interactive art exhibit by the South Street Seaport. The installation is located in the Maritime Building, an expansive and beautiful abandoned space located right on the water. (Though Bwog found out from an intern that the space will soon become a gourmet food court as soon as this exhibit ends.) Bryne’s piece itself isn’t so much on the second floor, it is the second floor. Planted in the center of the room is an old wooden organ, and attached to the organ dozens and dozens of cables that are connected to different parts of the room. Cables extend from the organ to the pipes on the wall, the walls themselves, the windows, the ceiling, and the support beams.

There’s a long line to actually sit and play the organ — though yesterday Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson stepped right up to give it a shot. Each of the organ’s keys and pedals corresponds to a cable, so when hit or pushed, a certain part of the building begins to boom, squeak, or moan. Hence, “playing the building.” The organ’s sounds are unforgiving to most non-piano players; most people Bwog listened to yesterday were only able to produce a few disjointed notes. But it’s worth waiting to listen to an actual piano player give it a shot, as hearing the 9000 sq. ft. space moan and crescendo in unison is a really unusual and off-putting (in a good way) experience.

It’s a far subway ride to be sure (take the 1 to 42nd and the N the R to Whitehall), but it’s definitely worth the trip, especially considering that admission is free and posters of the exhibition are only $1.

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  1. NYCT

    Except that the N train doesn't stop at Whitehall when the exhibit is open. Might want to try the R, Bwog.

  2. Subway

    You could also just take the 1 all the way to South Ferry (the last stop). The Whitehall stop is right across the street.

  3. NYCT

    Except weekend trains haven't been running to South Ferry for a long time due to the construction of the new terminal. They run express from 34th to 14th and terminate there.

  4. too bad

    I'm not in town. I wanted to see this.

  5. wow  

    Thanks Bwog, this looks really cool! Fun things like this make me less depressed about the fact that I am taking summer classes. Please keep posting them!

  6. hrh

    I would suggest taking the 1 to 50th street, then the m50 cross town to lex, walking down 8 blocks to grand central, then the 6 and transfer at the brooklyn bridge to the 4/5 at bowling green. surely this is best.

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