Fall may be upon us but the Broad museum in Los Angeles was having its final installation of Nonobject(ive): Summer Happenings on Saturday night, and if the first one back in June had started with a celebration of queer culture with the fabulous Perfume Genius among other queens, this new one was a transgender electronic music jubilee.
These nights are the occasion for the museum to open its door to a large public at night while transforming the place into a brand new environment, making the museum more alive, and Saturday night was a sort of avant-garde club culture, a wide range of abstract electronica with an underground idea in mind.
First of all I knew only one of the artists performing that night, JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN), who was DJing a blend of house electro-pop-soul in front of an ecstatic crowd on the Broad plaza. Of course JD is a woman looking like a guy, whereas most of the other performers were men, looking like women, the confusion of genres was the theme of the night, and I am obviously not only talking about music.
Up in the gallery, in front of the colorful murals of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koon’s ballons, electronic musician Kid606 was accelerating his beats with nervousness almost like a cha-cha-cha, before decomposing them into spacey, hard, harsh concrete electro-techno glitches, there also were some airport-like voices into the mix and a ‘Perpetual Dawn’ sticker on his computer, which may have implied a darker side to all this.
In the Oculus Hall, Elysia Crampton, a transgender electronic poet, performed some shaking-all-senses audio-visual number called ‘Dissolution of the Sovereign’. It was epic, futuristic and kitsch at the same time, mixing history, pre-history, sci-fi and death imagery, with planets on fire, dinosaurs, a Star-Wars-style trailer and images of the Aymara people (he/she is from Bolivia), superimposed with Elysia’s demand for transgender equality. The music sounded like an electro video game with repetitive laser-like loops, lost in space to conquer new frontiers and distant stars, it was an electronica battle crashing into surreal imagery, a collage between bar jails and the devil, as Elysia ended screaming like the girl in the exorcist. At the end it was not too different from Morrissey’s slide show showing tortured animals, except that, this time, transgender women had replaced the animals. Powerful stuff.
On the Broad plaza, SOPHIE (London-based electronic musician Samuel Long who has produced Charli XCX and Madonna among many others) was sculpting hard beats with a few rap themes and some abrupt changes in the rhythms and textures of her adventurous soundscapes. It was some weird stuff, rather abstract and experimental (like almost anything I heard during the night) bringing noise and metallic beats with some sudden and rare dance floors, accompanied by high-octane voices. Nevertheless, people were truly enjoying her avant-garde rave party.
In the gallery upstairs, I caught a bit of Lauren Bousfield, whose giant keyboard was connected to a computer. The result was rather quiet, almost sounding like a calming and suave symphony until beats were introduced and made things far more complex than they first seemed. Then Julianna Barwick played her rare piano looping notes and sang with a frail and ethereal voice while Charles Atlas was projecting a live video, a superposition of random images, faces, eyes, landscapes which almost had a poetry of a Kenneth Anger movie.
Saturday night was one of the most surprising nights of these Summer Happenings at the Broad, transforming the museum into a strange rave party, promoting music not easily accessible, played by a community rarely celebrated… Another reason to like the Broad.
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