Last Night: Emily Lacy's LACMA Performance
Emily Lacy's experimental sound performance, Temples of the Minds, Saturday night at LACMA was a great example of how music can transform a space. That the piece was set in the museum's Japanese sculpture garden made it easy to arrive at an open and meditative state: It's an indoor spiraled room with different levels and tiers, surrounded by Plexiglass handrails -- a sort of structural, space-age Guggenheim, simultaneously earthy and Zen, with thousands of small smooth river rocks and Japanese wood and block prints.
Lacy was joined by her sound cohort Ezra Buchla of Gowns and a mysterious young woman in bright white sunglasses. The latter looked like she were awaiting a nuclear detonation as she sat at the top floor moving bits of paper cutouts and what one could only guess were beads across a class room projector. The projection made a fantastical constellation of shadows and light.
Lacy and Buchla were adorned in long tunic robes that appeared to be equally influenced by mystical druids and Led Zeppelin. The pair walked slowly from one tier to the next, where drums, synthesizers, shaky rattly-type tinkering objects awaited their arrival. They fiddled and tweaked loops, pedals, and mics as Lacy sang her echo-heavy vocals, weaving a tapestry of high pitched calls and low seductive moans, a giant storm of aching and chanting. It was a wash of longing, pulled and pushed by the repetition; one sound would slowly fade and the next would begin. Buchla manipulated long cassette tape thread that had been strung from one tier overhead to below. The tape was connected to a machine that, when touched, gave off a high-pitched whine; at one point it sounded like the building's walls were creaking all around, cables snapping in a uniformed manner. The sonics collapsed into the rabbit hole of Lacy's voice -- a cross between Bob Dylan, Sinead O Connor and Joanna Newsom.
Lacy's tone rose and bounced off surfaces as if born to perform in that space. The lush overlaps and looping became a rich sound to get lost in. The audience walked slowly through the different levels; others sat cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, as if transported into a different reality, one in which they didn't have to get up for work on Monday, scoop the cat poop, balance the check-book or wash the car. LACMA became a place to sit in the dim glow of a momentary Lewis Carrol Wonderland, where everything around seemed like an invitation, calling closer to a dream.