High Line, sculptural artist Kevin Beasley wants you to stop and smell the roses — and while you’re at it, give them a good listen, too. To assist you with this sensory challenge, Beasley spent his summer months traversing the old West Side Line track, recording sounds – “natural, human, and machine” – that he’ll present tonight as “Untitled Stanzas: Staff/Un/Site.”At 6pm this evening, tomorrow, and Thursday on the 12th Avenue Overlook of the
Beasley, known for creating “immersive tactile experiences,” hopes his latest performance will be no different. “I’m trying to fine tune our senses and sensibilities,” said Beasley. He’ll attempt this by continually layering his recordings atop each other throughout the week in the creation of a “changing, open-ended composition” of found sounds. “What drives me as I continue to make this is an attempt to expand my perception and I hope the work reflects that, or in the least, is embedded in the experience.”
Thought of another way, with perception expansion in mind, by performing “Untitled Stanzas” within the environment of its making, Beasley’s performance will be nothing short of a microscope for the audience’s ears. Similarly to the way seeing something up close allows you to recognize and (hopefully) appreciate the elements that form the larger object, “Untitled Stanzas” will present the beauty of the High Line in a way never before seen or heard.
“I used to come have my lunch breaks here,” said Beasley, standing on the High Line as typical droves of visitors passed by. It was only in these past few months, upon commission by High Line Art, that Beasley saw the park as anything other than a convenient lunch location. Through the course of this project, though, Beasley has grown more aware of the High Line’s changing landscape, both in its permanent and temporary form. The “pinnacle” of this experience was Beasley’s time spent recording the recently expanded section of the park, surrounding the Hudson rail yards. “It’s still being developed and is very open and expansive,” said Beasley. “It’s really a beautiful side of the city.”
In drawing most of the recordings from this expanded section, Beasley’s performance will bring attention to this new part of the High Line, sonically capturing it in its current “ephemeral” state of development. By playing these recordings alongside the actual live sounds of the environment, a sense of hyperawareness will surround the performance. “It’s really about being here and being present,” he said. As for what that will translate to in terms of its whole, Beasley is as intrigued as you and me. “There’s a lot that I have to respond to. I’ve got it set-up as some sort of problem, like creating a wall to knock down or space to push off of.”
In this way, Beasley’s cacophony is best thought of as an experience in which the destination is far less important that the journey taken. “The High Line is a public park and in some way is meant as a space for people to exist in and take time to get out of their usual routine,” said Beasley, who views his performance as a reminder of that fact. “Within that, I hope that people can reflect on something that’s really valuable or important to them through this experience.”
“Untitled Stanzas: Staff/Un/Site” begins at 6pm and runs through Thursday, taking place alongside West 30th St on the High Line.