Out of this World: David Byrne

Posted on October 15, 2011


(Photo by AnneLise Sorensen)

Out of this World
by AnneLise Sorensen

Visitors to the High Line are on top of the world this week.

David Byrne of the Talking Heads recently unveiled a new sculpture: a giant, inflatable globe squeezed under the elevated tracks of the High Line park.

The name of the piece? “Tight Space.”

Our first thoughts? Out of this world. Magnificent. Pitch-perfect strange.

Imagine: You’re trudging along a gritty, very-far-west strip of West 25th, a street of car mechanics and cracked-window warehouses in the shadow of the Chelsea housing projects. And suddenly, you see the globe – big and blue and softly round. It’s crammed, like a childish prank, between two thunderously powerful steel beams. We did one of those exaggerated double-takes out of a cartoon.

The globe, surrounded by the grit of the city, looks vulnerable, innocent – which was, in part, Byrne’s intent. He chose one of those schoolhouse globes, the type associated with elementary school geography. On its surface, countries are nothing more than colorful blobs; and the ocean is a soothing, uniform blue. When class is over, the air can be drained of the globe, and it can be folded, and put away.

But nothing, of course, is that simple. And especially not when it’s David Byrne. He has plucked the globe from our youthful imagination and thrust it into the real world, with all its industry and steel and war – and foreboding sounds. Yes, sound is another element of the piece: As you approach, you’ll hear not the Talking Heads, but a talking globe. Speakers inside the massive globe emit low, thrumming pulsations – a human heartbeat on steroids. The source? Byrne himself, who recorded and then filtered his voice.

If the purpose of art is to inspire ideas, action, discourse, then David Byrne has succeeded. The question that hung in the air, unspoken yet deafening: Can the world be saved?

“Tight Spot” was created in conjunction with Pace Gallery, West 25th St., just west of 10th Ave., thepacegallery.com.

My review originally featured on MSN (Microsoft Network) Postbox.

(Photo by AnneLise Sorensen)