MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts
10 – 25 February 2007
900 million grains of rice. A grain for everyone living in the Americas.
Sited in the small industrial town of North Adams, Mass Moca is a contemporary art museum housed in an old factory complex. It’s a huge place and people drive for hours to visit it – from neighbouring states and cities …New York, Boston, Albany. This was our first visit to the east coast and as the Mass Moca publicity said it was the first chance to see the show “east of the Rockies”. We felt some pressure on us here (self inflicted), this being perhaps the most obviously contemporary visual art setting in which we had presented the show. That said we were actually in the theatre, stripped of its stage and seating and with its drapes pulled back revealing the original brick factory wall and windows which allowed the beautiful Massachusetts winter sunlight to stream in and choose which piles of rice to light during the day. At night the theatre lights took over, simple pools of light providing a very atmospheric and theatrical setting.
Here we also had the luxury of having Jon with us to develop the soundtrack. He added new musical elements, some of which he composed before we arrived and some he wrote up in his little room in the bowels of the building. These new musical elements transformed the soundtrack, punctuating the show with aural moments of joy, threat, sweetness, calm and anticipation. Jon’s work attracted nearly as many comments and questions as the rice. The sound now also includes moments of life in MASS MoCA captured as Jon interviewed, eavesdropped and sampled during his stay.
The show received widespread media coverage with radio interviews, photos and reviews in local press and features in the Boston Globe and New York Times. This and the marketting clearly worked – with over 5,000 visitors this was one of our busiest runs and people were very vocal in both their questioning and appreciation of the show and we had a number of repeat visits, which encouraged us to keep changing the show. It’s always difficult to take things up (you become very attached to the statistics you have put out and the stories they tell) but we kept the show moving and changing, with Jake putting out his final statistic with ten minutes to go on the final day.
Staying in North Adams was fascinating and we felt very much part of the MASS MoCA community. The staff and our volunteers were extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming. Saying goodbye was hard to do.
Performers: Heather Burton, Alison Carney, Jake Oldershaw, Karen Stafford, Craig Stephens
with Sarah Biagini, Ellen Biagini, Alison Basdekis, Thasia Giles, Emma Mulligan, Anna, Jody
Sound: Jon Ward
Initial Direction: James Yarker
Concept: James Yarker
General Manager: Charlotte Martin
Advisory Producer: Nick Sweeting
No words can express how moving this installation is.Katy
This is a vital demonstration of big statistics. Very thought-provoking with an occasional flash of humor. I did not expect to be impressed – but I am!Audience Member
Both funny and disturbing. The artists combine a sense of humor with a careful, serious depiction of life and death on this planet.Audience Member
Simplicity is a very forceful teacher and especially with information that is psychologically difficult to accept.Audience Member
I liked the sensation of holding my grain of rice while walking around the installation.Audience Member
Great to see statistics in VOLUME not the usual stats – also very beautiful.Carole
I’ve seen some artsy weird stuff before but this was better than any of that!Shoshama
First time I’ve ever liked being’just another number’Audience Member