Smoke Sculptures and Cattle Auction Performance Art: Station to Station in NYC

on Sep 8, 2013
Because it's America, that's why
"Over the course of three weeks in September 2013, a train will travel from New York City to San Francisco, making nine stops at train stations across the country...Station to Station will connect leading figures and underground creators from the worlds of art, music, food, literature, and film for a series of cultural interventions and site-specific happenings. The train, designed as a moving, kinetic light sculpture, will broadcast unique content and experiences to a global audience."  
--'s About page

A single smoke bomb is just a smoke bomb, but many of them arranged on a scaffolding frame and lit at the same time is a Smoke Sculpture. Sewing, when done by a small cluster of people who probably don't actually sew for a living within a gazebo-like wood structure, is more than sewing. An evening of artistically minded bands, experiential yurts, and performance art interludes should be more than enough on its own, but no, this show packs up at the end of the night and rides the rails through different cities until it gets to California.

McNasty infiltrates the Levi's sweatshop
 It's definitely saying something that Station to Station, which happened Friday, September 6th, on the south Williamsburg waterfront (which has morphed into DUMBO North at rapid speed), was the most crowd-photographed show I've ever been to. But at times that seemed to have been by design. The music stage backdrop was three large screens that hosted far more interesting visuals than the average psych rock show. Even the predictable footage of trains ranged from tasteful to hypnotizing to disorienting. The interstitial performance pieces between the bands' sets -- which might be the night's biggest triumph, eliminating the boring downtime between acts -- were enacted on small platforms in the middle of the audience. The arrangement of colorful yurts were set against the sun sinking into Manhattan's skyline. It's even possible that audience-generated social media content production was the unaddressed meta performance piece of the night. Perhaps its no longer a novelty that, at any given cultural event, the safe bet is that everyone in the room has a camera in their pocket, but it's still interesting to consider what things specifically get more of those cameras out of those pockets than others. Was Station to Station designed to be lived vicariously through a hazy Instagram filter? Probably not.

No Age
Did it mean to address the idea that the way we live now is to not live in the now? Also probably not. But if you're old enough to fondly remember concerts without smartphones, it would be possible to see how Station to Station might be daring its audience to be present in the moment of the actual physical world and simultaneously swamp our insatiable pixel existence mirror with visual and textual summations of experience.

No Age again: same pose, different backdrop
But that notion would be predicated on the idea that people even care about, or are even consciously aware of, that divide anymore. The time to reflect on these generational differences has nearly passed. Whoever lamented the loss of the simple efficiency of telegraph communication would have surely blogged a rant about it if they could.  

Speed-talking auctioneers + whipping + cowboy hats = art
But then, any time-traveling telegraph aficionado would surely feel a familiarity with Twitter and its encouragement of brevity -- only the cost of each letter is time (yours, and your followers), not money. Does this make Twitter effectively "Steampunk"? Yes, absolutely, it does. Twitter is the Steampunk telegraph.

Upside-down dudes on roller skates + spandex + ballerina = more art
And cattle auction performance art pieces are Cowpunk. And dudes-on-rollerskates-in-a-slow-motion-moving-sculpture ballet performance art pieces are Rollerderbypunk. And two older men in awesome hats and sunglasses pounding on a keyboard and speaking seemingly improvised lines at an uncomfortable volume level is post-punk, because Suicide put the 'no' in no-wave. And No Age put the wave back in no-wave. And Ariel Pink put the spazz in florescent spazzrock, which isn't a thing. But enough words...
Ariel Pink: into the blue
Ariel Pink: into the black and white
Suicide: both older and younger than you will ever be
Think twice before you get on stage and mash a keyboard with your fists, Martin Rev has already done it better
Freedom Sunset on Yurts